TIFF Interview: Director A.V. Rockwell Talks Her Film ‘Feathers' And How Philando Castile's Death Inspired Its Powerful Storyline
Countless films have examined the pain and traumas of black, male adolescence. From Moonlight to Menace II Society, these stories have woven stunning tapestries, which unpack what it means to come of age as a black male in America. However, few films have provided a space of healing for their characters, allowing them to work through their pain to overcome their past.With her lush, 19-minute short, Feathers, director A.V. Rockwell presents Elizier's (newcomer Shavez Frost) story. A new student at The Edward R. Mill School for Boys, Elizier must learn to release the anger and grief of his past, to press forward in his life and become the person he was always meant to be. Tucked in the corner of a restaurant in the midst of the Toronto International Film Festival, Shadow and Act sat down to chat with Rockwell about her love letter to black men and what inspired her to capture Elizier's story on screen.
"I am definitely frustrated. Generally speaking, there is just so much going on, and it's not even anything new. Looking back over the decades at our relationship with officers, with the police force — this is a recurring thing. The proof is right there, but even that doesn't feel like that is enough. It's like the world doesn't seem to give a damn about us, and that feeling is what Feathers is about," Rockwell said. "Society doesn't give a damn about you — whether you live or die. Our lives aren’t valued, and it definitely doesn't feel like your life shares the same value as your non-black friend."
"I thought, 'I want to do something that addresses that.' How does it feel to move through the world from such a young age, but already have that awareness or see a parent die?" she continued. "I thought about Philando Castile’s daughter; how does she feel to have seen her dad die viciously that way? Now she has to go through the world without a dad. Those images will be in her head with her for the rest of her life. Now she is being raised by a single mom. What is that going to mean for them, and in carrying all of this, what is that going to mean for her children, her grandchildren? How is that going to travel through the generations? I was frustrated by that, and thinking of their point of view," the director explained.
"Using their story as an allegory experience, I really wanted to lift them and push the message: Lift each other. When the rest of the world seems to have let go, that doesn't mean that you still should not care about each other," Rockwell implored. "The black community should continue to push society to change, but we can also take steps among ourselves. We need to take a look at our traumas and the way we deal with them — and the way we can find a way out of them."
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