“I do love big cities,” says Kiersey Clemons.
“When I was growing up, New York was always like Disney World to me,” she says. “It was a fantasy land. And when I went there I literally thought I was Carrie Bradshaw or something; it was the most magical experience. I thought I was at a theme park.”
No wonder, then, that her short list of films is “Big City Movies”: “Amélie,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer.”
The 23-year-old Clemons, who broke out in Rick Famuyiwa’s 2015 film “Dope” and will be seen as Iris West in “Flashpoint,” was named to Variety’s 2017 “10 Actors to Watch” list. Her work has taken her to many cities, but it’s the authenticity she craves when she sees a city on the screen.
“I think that location matters so much,” she says. “I’ve shot movies where we’ve tried to make Atlanta look like Los Angeles. We all know that Toronto’s not New York. It really sets the tone and environment for the movie.”
She chose two Paris films, though she’s never been there. “Paris is a character in ‘Amélie,’” says Clemons, citing the cinematography, costumes and the colors. “It captures at least what I associate with what it means to be artistic and Parisian”
Likewise, the city is a character in “Midnight in Paris.” We see Paris in two different time periods,” she says. “That’s the one movie I watch that I so badly want to be in it. I want it to be real life. It’s kind of like Cinderella a little bit. I want to be able to run away at midnight.”
“Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer” is focused on New York, and shows an iconic artist at work. A New Yorker himself, Shabazz often shoots subjects that defy conventional ideas of beauty: exhausted people sleeping on the subway on their way home from work; adolescents in juvenile detention, single parents with their kids, tired and sick.
“Why do we like depressing photos? Why are those the most beautiful?,” muses Clemons.
“I think that’s what his life was like growing up and so he was capturing what he knew, what he’d seen, so to him that was cinematic. ‘Cause it wasn’t what he was seeing in the movie theaters.”
Clemons’ experience of New York is different from Shabazz’s, but she recognizes his city in hers. And living in hipster Williamsburg, she still finds New York a magical place.
“You can still time travel in New York,” she says. “If you go to the right barbers or cafes, you can still go and meet the people that have been there forever and grew up there and have all these crazy stories. Even though all of their culture and childhood has kind of been gentrified.”
To watch Kiersey Clemons’ “Big City Movies”– “Amélie,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer” – as well as other movies like these, start your Tribeca Shortlist free, seven-day trial here.
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