Redefining Beauty - Sewra Kidane
By Carin Chea
"Mystical," "ephemeral," and "gorgeous" are just a few words that come to mind when thinking of award-winning, boundary-pushing editor, and director Sewra G Kidane.
Sewra is like that popular girl in high school you needed to be friends with. I am not talking about the mean popular girl everyone was secretly scared of. I'm talking about the student body president/varsity volleyball player who had an other-wordly wisdom, an unspoken warrior strength, and an unconventional (but magnetic) beauty.
Your name is beautiful. What does it mean?
It means "revolution" in Tigrinya, the language that is spoken in Eritrea, a country in northeast Africa.
What came first? Directing, editing, or something else? What gave birth to your flourishing artistic career?
I was 11 years old when I knew!! Leonard Nimoy had this show, Standby: Lights! Camera! Action! that was for kids, and showed all aspects of film production. It was fascinating. Later on, I got into Emerson College, and I tried everything, but I just fell in love with editing. It just fit!! It sat well with me.
I love your projects because they are quirky, classy and bold. How would you describe your style as a director and editor?
I like presenting unexpected images, starring Black actresses. You rarely see a Black woman sharing an avant-garde image. I want to challenge society's image of "Black women." I love re-defining the standard of Black beauty!! I want to see Black women glamorous, all the time!! I don't really see that on TV, or in magazines. You never see a black woman feeling carefree and un-bothered.
Your film, Proclamation Punctuation, has received critical acclaim. How did that project come about, and what was your inspiration behind it?
One day I just noticed how much I was using exclamation points! I really tried to pull it back, but it just wasn't working!!! And then I thought a fashion film about exclamation points would be the most original fashion film ever!! It continues to get awards and viewings. My point of view has been well-received, and that's exciting! I've been able to shoot 3 films since Proclamation Punctuation.
Tell me about these upcoming projects.
I did a fashion film for the fashion line, Ooshie. That came out so nice; I cut it as well. That was exactly the type of project I'd want to work on. I came up with the whole concept, and we shot it in a day.
Hycide Magazine - they're a photography and culture magazine. They asked me to do a film based on the new issue coming out. The film's based on Black power, but Black femininity power, and it's called Fifty Four Eleven: An Ode To The Round of Way Girl. It's a very layered piece.
I am so not cool. What does that title mean?
So, she's your Black girl in the neighborhood, you know, the Black girl "around the way." LL Cool J had a song called Round the Way Girl. That refers to the girls in your neighborhood, on your block. The song is referred to in the film
54.11 and is New York City slang for the Reebok Hi-Top Freestyle Classics.
Cool! What's the third piece you're currently working on?
It's a follow-up fashion film to Proclamation Punctuation. It's called As Above, and it's really cool. There's no dialogue, and there are 3 models. It's an esoteric, enigmatic film based on the 2nd law of the universe!!
You mean, like the Laws of Thermodynamics, that thing we learned in high school physics?
No... The laws come from the Word of Tehuti, or the Emerald Text. The 2nd Law talks about microcosms and macrocosms. So, what's happening out there is within you, and what's happening in you is happening on a bigger scale out there. The universe is within you. As Above plays with that.
Who and/or what are your inspirations?
Definitely Africa, but everything inspires me. My mom made it a point to expose me to everything, and I think that makes you a well-rounded person as well as a well-rounded artist. I'm able to pull from esoteric science and pop culture and comedy to make a fashion film.
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I'm actually currently working with my dream team behind the camera. But, I would love to work with really creative people who work outside the box, like Kanye. Also, FKA Twigs. Solange would be very interesting to work with because she has very definite ideas!!
I have a crush on Peter Saarsgard. What was it like working with him?
I didn't get to work with him personally, but I cut the footage, and it was fascinating watching him!!
If you could film your next project in any country in the world, where would that be?
The Maldives. I have a project that I'm workshopping in my head, and something in nature is making the water literally sparkle and glow over there. It fits exactly with what I am working on.
If you could resurrect any style from any decade in history, what would it be?
The 70s. All aspects of the 70s, even the platform shoes. Everybody looked great in the 70s!!
Back to Peter Saarsgard: could you introduce me to him and make my childhood fantasy come true?
Alrighty. Moving on. Let's say there is a new type of 8-Ball that has never existed before. What would you ask the 8-Ball, and what kinds of responses would it have?
Wow! That's an interesting question!!
You are literally making history in how you are presenting Black women in media, so it makes sense that you'd possess a never-before-seen 8-Ball. It's something new and unexpected, just like your work.
I know that all the answers on the 8-Ball would always tell me to proceed forward with vision. It would be like a double-sided coin: You flip it and you always win!!
Sewra's fashion film Punctuation Proclamation is listed as one of the top 12 fashion films of 2017 by Forbes Magazine. This trailblazer has an impressive body of work that includes Oribe and Estee Lauder, to name a few. Being in Sewra's presence is a transcendental experience.
For more information on Sewra and her beautifully fabulous projects, please visit www.SewraKidane.com.
Her award-winning short film, Proclamation Punctuation, can be admired at www.ProclamationPunctuation.com.
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