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Film and Video

When Fearlessness and
Filmmaking Collide

By Jana Ritter

Mya B. is one of those fearless filmmakers who has not only set out to conquer one of the most uncertain career paths known to man, but whose films dare to answer the kind of questions that most of us are afraid to even ask.

"Afraid of Dark" is the title of her latest documentary and it attempts to answer one of the most controversial questions of all. "Why is everyone afraid of black men?" Mya's candid and thoughtful exploration of the black male stereotype takes us on a journey from the science of racism, through its turbulent history, to what Trayvon Martin's tragedy ignited in America today. That alone promises the provocative kind of documentary that people want to see but after talking to Mya B. herself, we're convinced it's that and a whole lot more.

Afraid of Dark

Your latest film, "Afraid of Dark," takes on a subject that many filmmakers would not. What was your approach?
Honesty. Its what I love about documentary filmmaking, it's a quest for truth and if you as a filmmaker can connect with your subject, the camera makes people open up in ways they never even expected. Initially, I wanted to examine the two main black male stereotypes, the "Mandigo" and the "Brute" - how it started, how it has affected generations of black men and the black community as a whole.

I talked to a whole range of people from Dr. Cornel West, writers, entertainers, white females and gay males, but mostly black men themselves. It was their individual stories and personal struggles that taught me the most and the film kind of took on a whole other life in itself.

What initially inspired you to make this film?
My son, my brother and my father. I knew it would take a lot more than a film to break a stereotype that the media has been defining and reinforcing for so many years. But I wanted to at least give black men their own voice and a chance to define themselves as individuals...their greatness, their demons and all.

Now that it's finished, what do you hope people will gain from watching "Afraid of Dark?"
I want people to see black men as I know them to be. From my father who was a hardworking entrepreneur, my brother who embraced those qualities to become successful as well and my fifteen year old son who doesn't have any fear about dying because he knows he holds the key to his future - nobody else. I want people to see beyond the "angry black man" and "sexually aggressive" stereotypes, especially black men themselves. When it's all they're ever portrayed to be, many even play into the stereotypes and some even feel like their fate is already sealed. That fact is evident by the prison population and even more tragic, the percentage of young black men getting killed.

Trayvon Martin has certainly brought that to the forefront of everyone's mind.
Yeah and what's sad is that those cases and the whole issue of racial profiling has gone on since the beginning of time. The difference now is that when social media catches wind of something, the public becomes much more aware. I actually started making this film seven years ago and the final footage I shot was during the George Zimmerman verdict and the huge rallies it caused. But Trayvon Martin also represents the other awareness I want people to get from this film. He was a person, with a family and friends. He should be remembered for who he was in life, not just for how he died.

Mya B

Is awareness your main objective as a filmmaker?
Definitely. I feel it's my duty as filmmaker to wake people up and tell the stories that haven't been told.

What story do you plan on telling next?
The next project I plan to direct is about the sex trafficking going on with young Native Americans and the absconding of Native Americans in South Dakota. I like to focus on racial issues, but also social issues that effect people as a whole.

You definitely have a unique edge as a filmmaker, but who would you ultimately compare yourself too?
Michael Moore style-wise...I really like to use the Participatory Mode of filmmaking. Spike Lee is who really inspired me to become a filmmaker in the first place and like him, I tackle on films that deal with the African American community in a way that is honest and from the heart. I also like Pratibha Parmar, she brings the compassionate, thought-provoking female aspect to filmmaking and I really feel that combination of soul and fearlessness in myself.

For further information visit: www.AfraidOfDarkTheFilm.com


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