Variety Streaming Room: Television FYC
HBO’s documentary “Between the World and Me” is directly based on the 2015 novel of the same name from Ta-Neshi Coates. Written as a book-length letter to his teenage son, it describes the…
HBO’s documentary “Between the World and Me” is directly based on the 2015 novel of the same name from Ta-Neshi Coates. Written as a book-length letter to his teenage son, it describes the author’s feelings and experiences associated with being a Black American.
In the Variety Streaming Room presented by HBO, senior TV features editor Danielle Turchiano spoke with director and executive producer Kamilah Forbes; Susan Kelechi Watson, executive producer and performer; producer Alyssa Payne; Tariq Trotter, who contributed an original song; editor Daysha Broadway, and Christine Ng, director of photography.
Describing her work as a “personal” project, Forbes said she wanted to go beyond shining a light on the issues Black Americans face.
“I didn’t want to set out to necessarily make a documentary to shine a light on the issue,” Forbes said. “There’d been plenty of docs made on that topic.”
Instead, the filmmaker decided to take a different approach.
“At a time when families are hurting and needing something to heal us all, I wanted to make a film that was not retraumatizing people,” Forbes said.” “We want things to look as beautiful as possible, shining lights on the beauty of light, the beauty of Black life, the beauty of the Black family, the beauty of the Black body.”
The 80-minute documentary combines readings from the book with elements from the theater production at the Apollo Theater in 2018. An array of celebrities and civil rights activists made on-camera appearances in the film, including Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Angela Davis, Joe Morton, Phylicia Rashad, Yara Shahidi and Oprah Winfrey. Payne said the film is a communal story that’s not limited to one particular community or group of people.
“It started out as one father’s discussion with his son about the brutalization of black bodies and contributions of black people in America, but it really is something that’s not limited to that one family, unfortunately,” Payne said. “It’s not limited to this pain and destruction of the Black body. We all experience it. It’s not a male thing, it’s not a female thing, it’s the entire Black community and other communities around.”
Watch the full conversation above.