Writer-Director Nefertite Nguvu Talks About Her Romantic Drama ‘In The Morning’

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Writer-Director Nefertite Nguvu Talks About Her Romantic Drama ‘In The Morning’
Posted by Wilson Morales

May 8, 2017

Following a limited run in New York, with subsequent screenings scheduled in Atlanta, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J, writer director Nefertite Nguvu’s award-winning feature film “In the Morning” is also be available worldwide via Video On Demand on Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, Xfinity Streampix and VHX.

Photographed by award-winning cinematographer Arthur Jafa (“Daughters of the Dust,” “Crooklyn”), and color-timed by Malik Sayeed (“Belly”), the film’s ensemble cast includes: Jacky Ido, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Numa Perrier, Kim Hill, De’adre Aziza, Hoji Fortuna, JoNell Kennedy and making debut’s Alzo Slade and CJ Lindsey.

“In The Morning,” a film about love and its inevitable change/decline charting the emotional anatomy of several relationships over the course of one day. Friends: Ravi, Fez, Bly and Amara, gather to bid farewell to Harper (Hill) and consequentially debate the loss of their youthful ideals about marriage, fidelity, and love. Lovers: Malik (Ido) and Cadence (Corinealdi), meet to end a whirlwind romance that has collapsed under the weight of fear, obligation and regrets. A couple: Zuri (Aziza) and Leal (Lindsay), sift through the remains of their broken relationship as they try to make a life altering decision. For everyone, life will be indelibly altered in the morning.

Premiering at the 2014 UrbanWorld Film Festival, “In the Morning” won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at UrbanWorld, Best International Film at the Terra Di Siena Film Festival in Italy, Best Narrative Feature at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia, and Best Feature Film and Best Overall at the Bronzelens Film Festival in Atlanta.

For writer director Nefertite Nguvu, having directed a couple of short films and a ten-part web series featuring Queen Latifah for CoverGirl and Flavor Unit Entertainment entitled ‘U.N.I.T.Y. Re-ignighted’, and ‘Love Star’ a mini music documentary, it’s been a long journey to get her feature debut done and seen by many.

Blackfilm.com spoke with Nguvu about crafting this romantic drama and the journey from Kickstarter to festivals and now theaters and on demand.

Can you talk about putting this film together?

Nefertite Nguvu: It’s a film that we shot in 8 days in Brooklyn, NY. We shot the film with our cinematographer Arthur Jafa, who people may know shot Daughters of the Dust and Spike Lee’s Crooklyn and many other wonderful works. I wrote and directed the piece and we have a beautiful international cast and it’s a film about love and intimacy. We shot the film in 2012 and it took me two years in post to raise more money and get it in Cannes. We made our premiere at the Urbanworld Film Festival in 2014 when we won the Audience Award. We stayed on the festival circuit for two years; and now finally the film is available beyond film festivals on Video On Demand on Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, Xfinity Streampix and VHX.

Where did the story come from?

Nefertite Nguvu: I love films about relationships and intimacy. We don’t often get to see films that look like me that deal with those topics. I think a lot of times when it comes to black love stories, there are either romantic comedies or romantic fairy tales. I’m a huge fan of Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen’s early work. I really wanted to tell a story that was in that vein that was a bit more introspective. I dealt with people in their 30s, not young people in their 20s. That’s really why I made it because I wanted to see a film about contemporary black life that dealt with intimacy and vulnerabilities.

The scenes are broken in chapters or titles. Why do so?

Nefertite Nguvu: That was something that unfolded in the editing stage. Once we got to post on it, those titles weren’t written in the original script. When we were in the edit room and we started to put the pieces together, it felt like the work needed breaks and give the audience a chance to take in what just happened and get their footing to what was about to unfold next.

There are so many roles in the film with no single protagonist. What’s the challenge of writing so many roles with equal footing?

Nefertite Nguvu: As a first time feature film director, I would say that making an ensemble film with nine characters was a daunting undertaking, but these of the types of works that excite me. That was the type of story that I wanted to tell. For me, I knew I had a limited budget. I was writing a story that unfolded in one day. I knew it would lend itself to that. I also wanted to show different variations of black life. That was easier to achieve through different characters. We have these nine individuals and none of them are the same and we’re representing the multitudes of who we are. Being able to paint a fuller picture was important to me.

Can you talk about the casting?

Nefertite Nguvu: The cast was something that came about organically. Because we were a micro budget feature we didn’t have the money for a fancy casting agent or anything like that. A lot of the cast came from my filmmaking community. Dennis Dortch was the one who recommended Emayatzy Corinealdi to me. She was in Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere and we started shooting this before that film came out. I hadn’t seen it yet but Dennis had seen an early cut and was able to say, “There’s this sista in it and she’s amazing.” That’s how she came to my attention. Jacky Ido cam through another filmmaker friend of mine. De’adre Aziza, who plays Zuri and was Tony Award nominated for ‘Passing Strange,’ and I have been friends for a long time. That happened organically. I’ve been a fan of her work and I wrote the character with her in mind. Hoji Fortuna came to us through Actors Access. With Kim Hill, I’ve been a fan since she was in the Black Eyed Peas, but we had a mutual friend who introduced us when I lived in Los Angeles. This is her first feature film so we had an extensive rehearsal process for her to get into the mode of the character. It was about being natural and being able to inhabit the roles they are playing.

Is this film more for an individual or for couples?

Nefertite Nguvu: I think it’s for both. What I love is when people come up to me after seeing the film and they say that they saw themselves in the film and I’m super proud of it. I’m proud of the films that moved me and I think about what it feels like to see yourself reflected in cinema, to see something that reflects who you are and that’s me as a director and as a writer.

What did you learn through this long journey?

Nefertite Nguvu: I learned so much. I feel that I grew so many new muscles over this process. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be when I started. Had I known it was going to be this five year journey, I don’t know if I would have signed up for that. Every step of this process has taught me something new and I’m so grateful for that.

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