Blogs, Panels & Discussions
Brandi Webb Wants To Uplift Stories of Marginalized People
March 24, 2021
With the Women’s Month Film series, we have programmed a selection of work from international women filmmakers of color who, against all odds, have broken the Glass Ceiling and managed to create meaningful pieces of cinematic art. Of these filmmakers, I spoke to Brandi Webb, director of our Opening Night Film “Betrayal of a Nation” to find out what inspires her and keeps her going within the film industry.
Her love for film has been a slow simmer spanning over many years and has brought her up to be an accomplished and skilled filmmaker today, “I grew up performing in theatre, attending a specialized high school for theatre, and got my BA in Theatre Arts from Clark Atlanta University, a Historical Black University. In college I began writing, directing, and producing staged plays. Over time I developed an interest in film and tv and produced a couple of web series and films. I taught myself how to edit video and use the camera and wore many hats as an independent filmmaker.”
Her film, Betrayal of A Nation is an experimental documentary that indicts the U.S. Government on 18 charges, for crimes committed against Black and Brown citizens. The film intertwines scripted courtroom dialog with out-of-court real-life interviews with experts and witnesses. And this style of using the two mediums – narrative and documentary – is a very effect device to drive home the point that Webb was trying to make with this film – that the American justice system has been hurting and killing marginalized people and therefore needs to be examined and changed. The interviews in the film highlight oppressive acts such as the destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK, the execution of Civil Rights leaders carried out by the government, and more.“I wanted to show people who to hold accountable for the disparities faced in the African American community, provide solutions, and inspire people to take an active role in the movement for Black liberation,” say Webb. Watching a political documentary from a female gaze has unfortunately not been commonplace enough and Webb’s film makes such a strong case for why we should all be watching more political documentaries made by black women.
“My goal is to direct meaningful projects that uplift stories of those in marginalised communities” – Brandi Webb
ADIFF: What was the moment you felt you had to make Betrayal of a Nation?
WEBB: I grew up in the 90s and early 2000’s. We didn’t have many known female directors back then. I became a filmmaker because I was inspired by the women in my family; my mom, aunts, and Grandmother that encouraged me to do what I love and showed me that anything is possible if you apply the effort.
ADIFF: The film does a great job of intercutting scripted courtroom scenes with documentary footage. Why did you decide to make this film a documentary instead of a narrative feature?
WEBB: I wanted documentary elements because I thought it was important to teach and uplift stories through interviews and narration. All of my previous projects were narratives so I didn’t want to completely do away with that. I felt having scripted elements would be entertaining and more appealing to those that aren’t typically into watching documentaries. Initially, I referred to the film as a hybrid and called it a “Moviementary,” but when submitting to festivals it became tricky. The categories make you choose one or the other. I chose documentary due to the narration and interviews that carry the scripted elements through.
ADIFF: Now that you have completed the film, what are some of the lessons you’ve gained that you hadn’t known before filming?
WEBB: I learned the importance of doing your own research on a topic before and after you interview the talking heads and I learned the importance carefully vetting those you interview. I became a stronger cinematographer and learned a lot more about my camera as a result of filming a lot over the four years of making this documentary. As a director, I learned the importance of connecting and being empathetic with the talent which helps them to open up and bring their best foot forward on camera. And the best gained lesson of all is that when you capture stories you are capturing moments of history that will forever live on and serve as a guide for where we came from, where we are, and we where we need to be headed.
ADIFF: For the first time, two women have been nominated for Best Director for the Academy Awards this year. What are your thoughts on this historical moment, and do you think that the Oscars are still an important achievement for filmmakers?
WEBB: I think it was nice to see that women were nominated but it would have been momentous for me if their were African American women nominated. I would have loved to see Regina King on that list of nominees. It’s 2021- We have so many talented Black women directors and I think our nominations and wins are long overdue. I’m happy Regina King made history for the Golden Globes for her remarkable directorial debut of One Night in Miami. I’m just wondering when they are going to determine that we are good enough to win; that the work we create is worthy. The Oscars and even the Golden Globes will feel like an achievement to any filmmaker, they are the most popular of the awards out there but we shouldn’t allow that win/nomination or lack thereof be the factor that validates/invalidates our work. There’s a lot of amazing work out here and many of it in my opinion is better than some Oscar and Globe winners I’ve watched in the past.
ADIFF: What was the most challenging scene to shoot in “Betrayal of a Nation” and why?
WEBB: In the movie there is this beach scene with floating candles that have names of people we have lost due to state sanctioned violence. Because it was outdoors, we did not have control over the lighting or weather conditions. We needed to wait for it to get dark enough to show the candle light glow but also needed it to be light enough that we don’t loose picture quality. Achieving this wasn’t easy. When we put the candles in the water, the waves were coming toward us and as a result the candles would not float out to sea. We had to get into the water a few feet in so the candles could at least travel some distance before being pushed back to shore by the waves. I got in the water with the production assistants to capture the shot of the named candles. When we got out of the water, our rain boots were soaked and sand was in between our toes. Due to weather and wave patterns, we filmed this scene three different times to try to get it the way we wanted.
ADIFF: What kind of filmmaker would you like to be remembered as?
WEBB: I’d like to be remembered as a filmmaker that was highly creative, innovative, passionate and impactful with trailblazing work that influenced change that helped to liberate oppressed communities of color.
ADIFF: Lastly, what are you most looking forward for audiences to see when watching “Betrayal of a Nation”?
WEBB: I’m looking forward to audiences learning about parts of American History that aren’t taught well in schools if taught at all. I’m looking forward to those that are aware of our history to see and adapt a vision of what accountability looks like so they can be inspired to play their role in the movement for justice and liberation.
Don’t miss Brandi’s Web’s zoom conversation this Friday, March 26 with Marcia Weekes, director of “Barrow: Freedom Fighter” as they discuss their passion for making films with strong political messages.