Co-directors Michele Stephenson & Joe Brewster’s insightful and entertaining Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project pushes the boundaries of biographical documentary film to reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators. Combining parallel cinematic story editing with visually innovative treatments of her poetry, along with intimate vérité, rich archival footage, and Giovanni’s own captivating contemporary performances, Going to Mars recounts the story of the artist and her works of resistance through the tumultuous historical periods in which she lived—from the Civil Rights Movement, to the Black Arts Movement, to present-day Black Lives Matter. Co-directors Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster join us for a conversation on the life and times of a poet / author / philosopher who has, over the course 50 years, articulated the brazen truth about race, sex, patriarchy, social revolution and the nature of love and their hyper-cinematic approach to telling Nikki’s story.
About the filmmaker – As co-founding member of the Rada Film Group, filmmaker, artist and author, Michèle Stephenson pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney to tell compelling, deeply personal stories in a variety of media that resonate beyond the margins. Her work has appeared on a variety of broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime and MTV. Her most recent film,American Promise,was nominated for three Emmys including Best Documentary and Best News Coverage of a Contemporary Issue. The film also won the Jury Prize at Sundance, and was selected for the New York Film Festivals’ Main Slate Program. Her collaborative film series with New York Times Op-Docs, A Conversation on Race, won the 2016 Online Journalism Award for Commentary. Stephenson was awarded the Chicken & Egg Pictures Filmmaker Breakthrough Award and is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her community engagement accomplishments include the PUMA BritDoc Impact Award for a Film with the Greatest Impact on Society, and she is a Skoll Sundance Storytellers of Change Fellow. Her recent book, Promises Kept, written along withco-authors Joe Brewster and Hilary Beard, won an NAACP Image Award forOutstandingLiterary Work.
About the filmmaker – Joe Brewster is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist who uses his psychological training as the foundation in approaching the themes and stories he tackles as an artist and filmmaker.As co-founder of the Rada Film Group, Brewster has created stories using installation, narrative, documentary and print mediums that have garnered support from critics and audiences internationally. He is a recipient of fellowships and grants from the Sundance Institute, the Tribeca Film Institute, BAVC, MacArthur Foundation, and most recently the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Brewster is a Spirit Award and three-time Emmy Award nominee.His documentary film American Promisewas awarded the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking at Sundance and the African American Film Critics’ Association Award. Brewster’s outreach accomplishments include a Revere Award and the 2013 NAACP Image Award for the best selling companion book Promises Keptand a BritDoc Prize for developing one of the most innovative documentary outreach campaigns in 2014.
“Nikki Giovanni is a national treasure. Whether you are familiar or not, audiences now have a chance to get to know and love her like those of us who have adored her for decades and counting.” – Carla Renata, The Curvy Film Critic
“An inventive, imaginative documentary, charting her life and times but also exploring her values, beliefs and unique perspective on the experiences of African-American women.” – Allan Hunter, Screen International