It’s been two years since Ghetto Film School and Netflix teamed up to support and amplify up-and-coming Black directors. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce this year’s creators along with their original short films: David Fortune (Us), Dwayne LeBlanc (Civic), and Kecia Romiel (I Wish I Can Give You an Answer).
With over 80 applications, we selected three directors who stood out for their unique artistic visions. Dwayne LeBlanc’s Civic is shot entirely from the backseat of a car, a bold cinematic choice that takes a lot of consideration to pull off successfully. Ghetto Film School alumna Kecia Romiel’s I Wish I Can Give You an Answer puts a lens on mental health and therapy — a topic that has grown in popularity within the Black community, especially over the course of the pandemic — from the point of view of a therapist who is on the brink of burnout. And David Fortune’s Us, which is set primarily on a baseball field, captures a father struggling to teach America’s pastime to his son with Down syndrome.
Over the past six months, the creators pitched, developed and produced the short films with a $25,000 production budget. They also received guidance and mentorship from both the Ghetto Film School and Netflix teams, who provided creative feedback on the scripts, as well as on cuts of the film in the post-production process. Whether it was collaborating with organizations that support people living with Down syndrome, conducting research with licensed therapists, or manipulating natural light to shoot from within a car, each filmmaker brought their personal perspective to the project throughout each stage of the development process.
Ahead of Juneteenth, join us in celebrating these three powerful films that explore themes of transformation, self-introspection, and belonging. All three premiere today on the Netflix Film Club YouTube channel, and we invite you to watch, share and discuss the shorts through our Ghetto Film School, Netflix Film Club and Strong Black Lead social channels.
Us by David Fortune
A devoted father experiences the highs and lows of teaching his son with down syndrome the sweet science of baseball. However, his patience is stretched as his child struggles to grasp the basic fundamentals of the sport they love.
Born the eighth child in a family of ten children, David Fortune was only privy to films viewed by his older siblings such as Crooklyn, Malcolm X, and Higher Learning. However, these stories would later sculpt his creative approach while studying film at Morehouse College (B.A) and Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television (M.F.A). Since then, David has participated in directing fellowships such as Village Roadshow Emerging Talent Program, ViacomCBS – ViewFinders Directors Program, Indeed/Hillman Grad’s Rising Voices Program, and currently, Ghetto Film School/Netflix Content Creator’s Program. As a storyteller, David continues to find power in normalizing themes of love, compassion, and intimacy set in inner-city environments. It is his mission to shed a hopeful light to communities hidden in darkness through the art of cinema.
Civic by Dwayne Leblanc
Civic follows Booker as he returns to South Central LA after several years away. Confined to the interior of his car, we watch as he interacts with the people and places he once knew, floating between moments of nostalgia and the subtle realities of a subconscious search for identity.
Dwayne LeBlanc is a Los Angeles-based, first-generation Caribbean-American artist. Primarily self taught, his multimedia practice is focused on filmmaking. Amongst other things, his work is centered around themes of migration, visibility and dual identities. In 2021, a series of Dwayne’s photographs were published in the third issue of Forgotten Lands, an independent magazine focused on authentic Caribbean art, culture and dialogue. His series bore witness to the transitioning lifestyle of Dominica. His film, Olympic Village 2028, is an experimental documentary that considers the ever-shifting cultural identity of South Central LA. It won Best US Documentary at Austin International Art Film Festival and was selected for the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival in Toronto. Dwayne is a Berlinale Talents 2022 alumni where Civic was selected for Berlinale International Film Festivals ‘Short Form Station.’ His upcoming film You Do Not Exist is currently in post production, to premiere in 2023.
I Wish I Can Give You An Answer by Kecia Romiel
A jaded therapist, while helping their clients reconcile with life during a global pandemic, must come to grips with their own emotional burnout.
Kecia Romiel is a 27-year-old filmmaker born and raised on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York. A visual storyteller, since the age of 14, Kecia started her career through local activism in community lead programs such as Teen Action, UNICEF, and The Jewish Museum. Currently, Kecia is currently working as a film and tv instructor as well as a producer on the documentary series, Quest for Craft with Questlove. When Kecia’s not working on a creative project or teaching, she is an advocate and facilitator for international children’s rights in conjunction with UNICEF and Child-Friendly Community Initiative.