Chat w/ Mtume Gant, Director of a Radical New Entry into Black Independent Cinema - 'I DON’T LIVE TODAY' #NoKingsHere

I DON’T LIVE TODAY follows one night in the life of a Black abstract artist who has become disillusioned with the morally corrupt art world in New York City. On this night, Robeson has declared his exodus from the city and in doing so wanders the streets for one final time getting into misadventures that force him to face his own toxic hypocrisies.

Gant intends to unveil New York City with a focus on rarely seen parts of the city to reveal the fuller truth about his hometown where he has lived his whole life. The film is a modern-day morality fable that takes place in the darker ends of the New York arts economy, where the subjects of race, family, loyalty and ethics are put on trial.

Here’s excerpts from our chat with Mtume.

Why do you think it's important to get this film made at this time?

In today's world its important not only that we have films that address important issues - we have plenty of those - but films that are not going to shy away from looking at the harsh reality of these issues which I believe many films that purport to be socially relevant actively do. The issues we face of exploitation in all its forms are of incredible importance and as artists we have a duty when making a 90 minute film to not sugar coat. This film does not sugar coat one bit from form to function. We need to really step up our conversations in this country and add more urgency, this film will be vital in pushing that. 

Why do you like about being a filmmaker and what does it mean to you?

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I love the totality of cinema. I am a multi-disciplined artist who comes from a background of drama, music and literature so to be able to find a medium that can host all three in a complex way is incredible gratifying, you feel like their so much possibility when making cinema. It also means I have a lot of responsibility because the image is so vital to shaping minds in societies and our society that is obsessed with concepts like “representation.” People are shaping their lives off of the characters they see in cinema, so its my duty to not do what mainstream cinema is doing and providing people with false senses of humanity that placate and engineer people to believing the world is something other than it actually is. 

Who are your favorite filmmakers that inspire you and why?

I have many. A few are Andrei Tarkovsky, Wendell B. Harris, Lucrecia Martel, John Cassavetes, Glauber Rocha, Bela Tarr, Krystoff Kieslowski, Lee Chang-dong and Lina Wertmueller. I could go with many more honestly. The reason why I say these names is because these people made films that exist beyond the market, this is cinema that stands as tall as the pyramids in Egypt, they made monuments of humanity. They expressed, not only their personal visions, but captured the pulse of the globe so it was never singular. I could talk about each one specifically but we would be here for hours. But just know that these filmmakers made pieces of art that will exist forever, out live social systems and social conventions, that are now a part of the human fabric wether they like it or not. 

What's currently on your Netflix (or Amazon/Hulu) queue? What do you love about these shows?

I actually watch Filmstruck and Mubi more. I know it probably sounds pretentious but it's the truth. Last thing I watched on Netflix is Bojack Horseman, I do enjoy the snide commentary on Hollywoods decadence. Other than that I mostly watch the doc series on Netflix. On Amazon Prime I love that they have the Fandor extension I have been able to see a lot of great films, I just watched Tetsuo The Iron Man again, such a fantastic film. I also watched some films by Tsai Ming-liang, who is another filmmaker I have a great amount of respect for. 

What's your most favorite and least favorite thing about NYC?

I grew up here and my favorite thing will always be the ability to walk and take mass transit, even with mass transit these days being as wonky as its ever been. I still feel like I have a certain amount physical freedom that I don’t feel in other cities like Los Angeles which always feel so confined and segregated. Much of it is illusion but life is perception. What I don’t like about NYC is how Capitalism has turned this city into a dreamland for those who have the money. The blatant disregard for the people who made this city what it was. New York is no longer what it was, artists can’t thrive here anymore. As a native I find the gentrification and constant answering to the bottom line of capital inhumane. 

About Mtume Gant
Mtume has been circling the arts industry for decades as an actor of theatre and film. He travelled the world as a hip-hop artist under the name Core Rhythm, and now focuses on making socially aware films. Mtume’s previous short films SPIT and WHITE FACE have screened at numerous festivals garnering countless awards including New York City’s Coney Island, Bushwick, Harlem, Lower East Side, and in San Francisco, Woodstock, Aspen, Ashland, and Manchester.

I DON’T LIVE TODAY is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as @IDLTFilm
and under the hashtag, #NoKingsHere

A crowdfunding campaign is currently on its final week offering a feature film to be executive produced by the Duplass Brothers. Mtume Gant’s I DON’T LIVE TODAY has just raised $20,000 reaching 50% of the campaign $40,000 goal.

In addition to raising the remaining funds, Gant and team must raise 1000 followers to successfully complete the campaign by October 17th 2018.

Individuals can visit the campaign page and click the FOLLOW button which is simple, easy, and free!

Individuals can show their support by clicking the FOLLOW button on the campaign page or pledging amounts upwards from $25 here

Chat w/ Derrick Borte, director of AMERICAN DREAMER


American Dreamer recently had it’s world premiere at LAFF. Starring Jim Gaffigan, it’s a film about “A down on his luck driver, who makes extra cash chauffeuring a low level drug dealer around town, and finds himself in a serious financial bind and decides to kidnap the dealer's child.”

Derrick Borte is the co-writer (along with Daniel Forte) and director of the film. We had a chat with him and here are the excerpts

What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of making this film?

Limited resources (and everything that comes with that) presented the biggest challenge by far. Shooting this film in 16 nights was tough. Thankfully the whole team was totally committed and we were able to make it work.

What was the casting process for the film like? How as working with an excellent comic like Jim?

Casting is always one of my favorite parts of the process. So much of your film comes together (or not) based on every one of those choices. I feel like we found such great talent for these roles, and it was such a pleasure working with all of them. Jim was so prepared for the challenges this role presented. We had great conversations every day about Cam, his situation, and his decisions.

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How was your experience at LAFF?

 Jenn and Drea have been wonderful to work with. The entire staff (and all the volunteers) are great!

 What's next for you?

 Scott, Danny, and I have a few projects in development, but it’s difficult to look past this film right now though. We are all so proud of it and want to help ensure it finds its audience.

 What's on your Netflix (or amazon/hulu) queue right now?

 Lately I’ve been going back to a pretty eclectic variety of films; BIG WEDNESDAY, ANGEL HEART, MANHUNTER, BARRY LYNDON, etc. Also all of the seasons of Bourdain for some travel inspiration.

Who are your favorite filmmakers that inspire you?

 (In no particular order) Sofia Coppola, Hal Ashby, David Cronenberg, Jim Jarmusch, John Hughes, Terry Gilliam. 

What's your message to other aspiring filmmakers and storytellers?

If you have a story to tell, don’t wait for permission. Make your movie with whatever resources you have.

You can listen to the full interview with Derrick Borte below:

“Manos Sucias” directed by Josef Wladyka and executive produced by Spike Lee

During the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, director and screenwriter Josef Wladyka’s, “Manos Sucias” won the Best New Narrative Director and an Audience Award at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.  The film has opened in New York. 

“Manos Sucias” was executive produced by Spike Lee, who was also Wladyka’s professor at NYU.

“Manos Sucias” is written by director Wladyka and Alan Blanco.  The taunt thriller explores the dangerous city of Buenaventura, Colombia, and is a harrowing tale of three men who embark on a journey over the dark murky waters of the Pacific. 

A set of mysterious coordinates is their guide, a fishing net is their cover, and a narco-torpedo filled with 100kg of cocaine is their cargo. 

Following estranged brothers as they risk everything for a chance at a better life, “Manos Sucias” takes a close look at life at the bottom of the food chain in the international drug trade. 

Wladyka cast tremendously gifted newcomers including Cristian James Advincula, Jarlin Martinez, Hadder Blandon, and Manuel David Riascos.

myNewYorkeye: What were the biggest challenges in making this movie?

Josef Kubota Wladyka: There were so many challenges to overcome while making this film, but one of the biggest was figuring out how to shoot in Buenaventura.   Buenaventura is a city on the Pacific Coast of Colombia plagued with many social/political issues.  Our core team, myself, Alan Blanco, Elena Greenlee, and Márcia Nunes, knew that if we were to make a film there we had to come in with the right attitude and a certain sensitivity in order to be welcomed.  There is no film infrastructure in Buenaventura so we encouraged the people in the community to act in and crew on the film. What at first seemed liked a challenge, turned into a beautiful collaboration with the people of Buenaventura.  As one of the most hot and humid areas in the world, the physical act of making this film was also another major obstacle.  Filming on boats, through thick jungles, and in other rough terrain taxed us emotionally and physically.

myNewYorkeye: Your producers are also from the NYU film program.  What’s it like, as a director, to work with a good producer?

Josef Kubota Wladyka: Good producers are such a crucial part of making a film. I had the privilege of working with Elena Greenlee and Márcia Nunes, two incredibly dedicated producers whose resilience in the face of challenges amazed me.  They brought so much to the project, especially from a creative standpoint. 

I always leaned on them not just for the logistical aspects of the film, but also collaborating with creative decisions.  They both have great taste and have an extremely important quality that I think all producers need… they are honest.  As a filmmaker you need people to be 100% honest with you all the time to keep you grounded.  So much of the success of this film is credited to the two of them.  They truly are badass. 

myNewYorkeye: How has your style changed since making the movie?

Josef Kubota Wladyka: I’m not sure if my style has changed because I haven’t made another movie yet, but I hope it doesn’t change too much.  I want to try to keep telling stories that are compelling, exciting, and emotionally moving.

myNewYorkeye: What are the central themes - to you – and why did you take such risks in telling this compelling story? 

Josef Kubota Wladyka: The main theme for me is the loss of innocence.  In Buenaventura there are so many young kids that get caught up in this cycle of the drug trade. I think at the end of the film it is clear that Delio is now forever a part of this world.  He lost his innocence by taking another life and in essence he is killing himself. Jacobo has been trapped in this cycle and at the end of the film, as he looks to his younger brother in the boat, he knows he is now trapped in it forever too.

We all took so many risks telling this story because we wanted to create an authentic and real film.  We wanted to show a part of the drug trade that people rarely see and we wanted to do it in the real place with the real people. Through making this film, we witnessed the resilience of the human spirit even when faced with hardship. We learned that the drug trade is a complex system that affects more than just the people directly involved in it.  We learned that those involved often times don't have a choice.  For us, it was worth all the risks. 

myNewYorkeye: What do you love best as a story teller?

Josef Kubota Wladyka: Being able to explore and learn about new worlds and show them to an audience.

myNewYorkeye: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received, from anyone, that you apply to your life and work? 

Josef Kubota Wladyka: I often find that the best advice is the most simple.  For me, it came from Spike Lee… “Get it done, by any means necessary.” 

myNewYorkeye: What’s next, talented fellow? 

Josef Kubota Wladyka: Alan and I are working on various new projects, including writing for hired gigs as well as deciding what film we will make next.  I am also reading a lot of scripts hoping that one might grab me and be something I would want to direct.

New York, NY (Cinema Village)

Choque Clip: