The New York Times’ Op-Docs initiative has picked up “Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma,” winner of the short film jury award for non-fiction at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and will release it Sept. 14 on NYTimes.com.
Directed by Topaz Jones and filmmaking duo Rubberband (Jason Filmore Sondock and Simon Davis), the 38-minute film explores Jones’ education on his own Black identity by presenting “the Black ABCs,” inspired by a set of alphabet flashcards developed by Black educators in Chicago in 1970 as an alternative to the Eurocentric teaching tools typically available to them. Jones created his own versions of the Black ABCs updated for Black American life in the present, resulting in 26 scenes that also serve as a companion piece to Jones’ musical album of the same name.
The film, which was also awarded special jury recognition for visionary storytelling at SXSW 2021, will premiere as a part of Op-Docs, media company’s series of short documentaries by independent filmmakers.
“At the heart of ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’ is a desire for preservation,” Jones said. “We found joy in uncovering new creative ways to archive moments in a single life that could speak to the spirit of many lives. We’re honored to partner with an historic institution like The Times to present this raw, unconventional exploration of thought and memory as a record of Black Americans’ complex relationship to identity in the early aughts. May it inspire and make others feel seen in their own self discovery for generations to come.”
“We often think that in creating this work, we created a three dimensional object in a two dimensional space — an attempt at a Topaz-shaped hologram, for people that love him by people that love him,” Rubberband added. “In that way, this film was the effort of a village of people that believed in the portrait we painted of Topaz and how we went about creating it. We keep talking about bringing the film home — we genuinely believe there are physical cities and places in this world where this film belongs. Little nooks and crannies carved out in them where ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’ fits. Like Chicago. And Montclair. And eighth grade classrooms. And hot ass summer days, full of sweat.”
“We are excited to release this boundary-pushing short film on The Times’ digital and mobile platforms,” said Christine Kecher, senior commissioning editor of Op-Docs. “Op-Docs has followed the film’s journey since it premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and we are thrilled to partner with the filmmakers to share this incredible work of visual and musical imagination with audiences around the world.”
“Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma” was produced by Smuggler in association with Frenzy Paris, BWGTBLD GmbH and Section 80. Luigi Rossi served as producer with Kevin Storey executive producing, creative direction by Eric J. McNeal and cinematography by Chayse Irvin. Adam Ellick executive produces Op-Docs.