Recently, two SCM senior filmmakers, Michelle Martinez (pictured on right above) and Amatullah’Muhyi Ali (left above), took their senior thesis short films all the way to Cannes, France in May to participate in the Cannes Short Film Corner. Their films, “Hit Me Up” and “Undefined: A Muslim-American Musical,” which the two produced under their production company, “AfroTwin Productions” screened at Cannes in the Creative Minds in Cannes Programming Block. The films were special screenings organized by the Creative Mind Group in order to showcase promising talent. The exposure gave the Montclair graduates the prestigious Marche du Film accreditation, which allowed them to access the entire festival.
Both films were also screened at the Montclair Film Festival New Visions program in May. In addition, “Undefined…” screened at the Langston Hughes African-American Film in Seattle in April, and “Hit Me Up” will have its New York City premiere at the Dominican Film Festival this July.
“Hit Me Up” is a 15-minute coming of age story that explores what happens when a naive teenager’s first kiss goes further than she expects. According to Martinez, “Hit Me Up” was a dramatized version of a not-so-romantic affair I had in high school, in which the boy I was speaking to was way more experienced than me and had different intentions. Personally, it felt good to tell the story because it came from a place of truth and I was reflecting on a past experience from a wiser point of view.”
“Undefined: A Muslim-American Musical,” is a 30-minute musical drama that follows a young woman making the transition into wearing her hijab publicly in a culturally uninviting society. The movie uses music, dance, and dialogue to shed light on the overlooked identity issues African-American Muslims face today.
Amatullah’Muhyi Ali explains what making “Undefined…” meant to her. “It was truly a revealing journey. While I was making it, I didn’t know the cultural effect it would have. I made the film because it was a story I felt I hadn’t heard in such a memorable way. It’s very close to my heart, and I am not the only person who can relate to the character in the film who suffers from a lack of representation for the African-American Muslim population.”
Organized by the Cannes Film Festival, the Short Film Corner, which ran this year from May 14-18, is an essential rendez-vous for filmmakers. Since 2004, short film producers and directors have chosen the Short Film Corner as the place to present their films, network with industry professionals and, hopefully, provide a catalyst for their careers. The Short Film Corner presents films from all over the world, most previously unseen, as well as the short films selected in the official competition, the Cinefondation, the Director’s Fortnigth and the Critic’s Week. This year, 559 student films were presented as part of the Short Film Corner.
According to the Cannes Short Film Corner, “The Cannes Festival is home to the largest film market in the world. Over half a million people – celebrities, filmmakers, journalists, industry professionals, fans, and students, descent onto the croisette to take part in the festival. Thousands of films are screened each year. Careers are made, deals are brokered and stars from all over the world gather to bask in the ambiance.”
AfroTwin Productions is currently in development of a television series and aims to distribute it on an internet streaming site. Michelle Martinez explains, “I’m hoping more people find the need to research and learn more about the film and its origins, as well as the people it reflects. I am also hoping that more people follow and support the newly developed production company, AfroTwin Productions, of which “Undefined…” is a direct product.”
A more expansive interview with Amatullah’Muhyi Ali is available at We Are Moving Stories website.