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Summer of Violence is a coming-of-age pic, emerging from director Nicki Micheaux’s time with the Sundance Writing Collab, which was shot in Colorado.
Nicki Micheaux carefully crafted the narrative and with her production partners, Johnny Wimbrey and Brian Mitchell, she’s now showcasing her directorial debut.
The film from Three60 Films, which is Micheaux’s company, follows a young college grad, Naomi (Inez), who turns down law school to pursue poetry, despite her father’s objections. She subsequently struggles to survive in 1993 Denver, after being cut off by her father during a period of violent crime in the city known as the “Summer of Violence.”
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Nicki Micheaux, Brian Mitchell, and Johnny Wimbrey about the film that’s connected them like glue.
“Love is that glue that gets us through the challenging things that we face in our life,” said Wimbrey.
“I think the story reaffirms that your past doesn’t have to determine your future,” said Wimbrey.
Nicki Micheaux is best known in the acting arena for appearances on such series as In the Dark, Shameless, Good Trouble, S.W.A.T., Colony, Veep, Animal Kingdom, Lincoln Heights and The Shield, among many other projects. She previously wrote, directed, exec produced and starred in the short film Veil, also exec producing the feature Final Promises. On the silver screen, she most recently appeared opposite Kate Beckinsale in THE TRIALS OF CATE McCALL.
The story of a “prodigal daughter” is something the 30 year acting veteran says she wanted to tell on purpose. “There’s a lot of stories that deal with violence, gangs and murders but they don’t really talk about the innocent victims and bystanders.” Michaeux continued, “That’s really what I wanted to highlight — just how difficult and damaging it is for us to live through the violence that has a ripple effect in the community.”
“I lived in Denver during that summer of violence,” remembers Micheaux. “I loved Denver. I was involved in the theater community, there was such a thriving art, music, and poetry scene but that summer was crazy. It felt like danger was encroaching upon you.”
Summer of Violence premiered at the American Black Film Festival and Essence Fest during June. It was also named one of the 10 must-see films at ABFF this year by BET.
Though the film has now been graced public eyes, Micheaux says she experienced the difficulties of being a Black woman trying to pitch the story of another Black woman. However, crafting a complete character was paramount for Micheaux, “I wanted to tell the story of this Black woman and have you feel and relate to her not to understand her good choices or bad choices, but to just see her as a full human being.”
“All the stories that we tell are to try to help shift the culture. And I don’t mean just Black culture,” said Micheaux. “I mean American culture, global culture, we have to change those racist narratives by presenting characters and humans that people can identify with.”
“This is why we need us telling our stories, when we’re not in control of the narrative you can get put into a certain box and only be shown as one kind of color,” affirmed Micheaux. “Love, beauty, art, death — all of it is happening in the film because it’s a slice of life.”
If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room would you trust it
Brian recalled, “I remember starting to like poetry because of Poetic Justice and now I’m watching my daughters fall in love with poetry because of this movie. Summer of Violence connects art to film so people can take home what they want to learn or mimic what’s articulated on screen.”
While visiting the set one day, Brian recalled “seeing Nicki pull captivating performances from the actors.” He continued, “Seeing the scene where the main character performs spoken word and watching the reactions of the cast, the extras in the audience and feeling that reaction myself before being brought to tears watching it on the camera on a playback did it for me.”
Far from just another movie, Summer of Violence is personal to Wimbrey who reminisced, “In 1993, that’s when I walked away from the street lifestyle. I met my wife at my homeboy’s funeral, who was murdered. We’re married today 25 years later so 1993 connects for me on a whole different level.”
Summer of Violence was also written Micheaux, who concluded, “There’s still hope in spite of the things that we go through as a community. We have to hold on to those things we love which give us hope to keep going.”