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Midlands Review - Dear Josephine

By midlandsmovies, Aug 8 2018 02:02PM



Dear Josephine


Written, Directed & Produced by Duaine Carma Roberts.


CARMA FILM MOTION PICTURES


“The most sensational woman, anybody had ever saw, or ever will” - Ernest Hemingway


Described as a visual poem that recounts the life of 20th century icon, civil rights advocate and superstar, Josephine Baker, this new 4-minute short comes from West Midlands filmmaker Duaine Carma Roberts and his Carma Film production company.


Starring Zellia John as Josephine Baker, the film is part poetry reading and part theatrical drama against a plain backdrop to summarise the background of this legendary woman.


For those unfamiliar with Baker, she was an American-born entertainer and activist whose career began as a celebrated performer headlining the Folies Bergère in Paris. Dubbed the "Black Pearl", the "Bronze Venus", and the "Creole Goddess" she renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a French national after her marriage to a French industrialist. And she was the first person of colour to become a worldwide entertainer and to star in a major motion picture.


Taking a stance by refusing to perform for segregated American audiences, she was offered unofficial leadership in the civil rights movement following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Although Baker declined the offer, she was later awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military owing to her aiding the French Resistance during World War II.



Josephine Baker at the March on Washington 1963
Josephine Baker at the March on Washington 1963

Roberts’ film mainly uses close ups to quickly convey the subtle emotions and hardships Baker faced during her life and a suitably laid back jazz score harks to the 1930s along with time-specific costumes.


Some black and white footage of the real Baker is used sparingly throughout to give us a glimpse into the legend, whilst Zellia John throws in some flapper dancing to set the period before changing into all black for her later civil rights engagements.


With no dialogue or sound effects, the film echoes the silent stylings of Marcel Marceau, the legendary French mime artist. Like Baker, he also performed at the Folies Bergère and was also in the French Resistance as well.


But this isn’t about Marcel despite the nods to his brand of performance art.


Roberts instead places images of beauty and harshness in opposition to one another. The drama sometimes literally translates the overdubbed poetry, whilst at other times, it simply evokes a tone or mood from the era. A final montage of the real-life Baker starring in Hollywood movies again reiterates her trailblazing cinematic legacy and an image of Baker in her World War II uniform shows a determination to fight for justice, both inside and outside of the system.


An interesting take that sets it aside from the usual style of local films, Roberts shows that a different cinematic approach on subject matter close to his heart can have a strong effect. Along with his sci-fi film Graycon, the director proves he can move between genres and film structures with ease.


With dreamy images of an historical icon some may not know much about, the simplicity of the words and images together makes the story come alive and allows the importance of Baker’s memory to speak for itself.


Mike Sales


Watch the full film below on Vimeo:







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