Kasi Lemmons Finds the Voice to Speak Out in ‘Talk to Me’

For writer-director Kasi Lemmons, making movies has never been a question of black or white, but rather varying shades of gray. “The gray area is so much more interesting and so much more realistic and valid to our experiences,” says the 46-year-old multi-hyphenate. “People are not all good or all bad. They’re complicated. Complicated characters are what interest me.”  

Since the critical success of Eve’s Bayou, which won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature in 1998, Lemmons has been telling stories that defy genre conventions and stereotypes. Her films are poetic (Eve’s Bayou), moving (The Caveman’s Valentine), relevant and sincere (Talk to Me). “I think I’m very intentional,” declares Lemmons. “I’m very deliberate as a filmmaker, so I think about how it’s going to look, how it’s going to feel. Some of my films are more poetic than others. Eve’s Bayou, which I wrote, is more poetic. I tend to be poetic as a writer but as a filmmaker I’m deliberate in what I set out to do.”  

Another defining trait of Lemmons’ films is that they feature African-American actors in the kind of three-dimensional roles that Hollywood often saves for A-List actors only. Take Samuel L. Jackson, who starred in Eve’s Bayou and Lemmons’ sophomore effort, The Caveman’s Valentine (and also helped produce both films). He plays two very unconventional leading men in these movies: In the first he is Louis Batiste, a charming, womanizing doctor whose actions are nearly impossible to pin down, let alone judge; in the second he is Romulus Ledbetter, a lonely homeless man who lives in a cave and attempts to solve the murder of a young boy. Both roles are completely unlike anything that Jackson has ever played and the latter especially showcases the emotional range of an actor who is more famous for his roles in action-driven films such as Pulp Fiction and Snakes on a Plane.

(Source: Moviemaker)

Directors, Filmmaking, Interview

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