In the short film, We Love Moses, a selection at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, we explore a 12-year-old’s secret crush on her brother’s best friend. However, in one moment her life and his are changed dramatically in one shocking plot twist. The film We Love Moses explores girlhood, relationships, and sexuality. This prolific coming of age story is written and directed by Dionne Edwards.
The film’s protagonist is Ella, played by actress Danaë Jean-Marie. Ella has a crush on her brother’s best friend Moses (Jerome Holder). She scribbles in her notebook her adoration for Moses and is incessantly teased by her classmates. Ella often tags along with Moses and her brother Michael (Raphel Famotibe). However, one fateful day she uncovers a secret that changes the lives of everyone in this narrative forever.
I reached out to filmmaker Dionne Edwards after watching the short and wanted to learn more about her personal story as well as the story behind We Love Moses.
Jamie: What inspired you to get into filmmaking?
Dionne: I spent the majority of my childhood sitting in front of the TV – watching all the Nickelodeon and Disney classic shows – Sister Sister, Moesha, Clarissa Explains It All, Smart Guy. I also loved Steven Spielberg films and anything that Whoopi Goldberg did. Before the age of 14, I wanted to be an actor and I was good at English and drama. I’d often be the control freak and direct all the group improvs in my drama class. My drama teacher must’ve realized I had some storytelling abilities cause she sent me to a filmmaking workshop. Up until then, I hadn’t realized there was somebody behind the camera calling the shots. So after that, I decided that directing suits me much better than acting!
Jamie: The story of Ella is so interesting to me because we all have a memory from our past that changed the course of our lives. Were any parts of her story similar experiences you went through?
Dionne: I share some traits with Ella, but I wouldn’t say the story is autobiographical. I certainly was a very obsessive, nosey, inquisitive child and I still am quite an obsessive person, particularly when it comes to crushes. So I drew from that when I was writing.
Jamie: Danaë Jean-Marie who plays Ella did a fantastic job as our lead protagonist. Can you tell us a little bit about the casting process? And what do you look for in an actor?
Dionne: She is such a huge talent; I’m expecting big things from her in the future. We auditioned a lot of wonderful young actresses but when Danaë stepped into the room she had something mysterious and compelling about her, which was so perfect for the character. She was also unfazed by the fact that she was auditioning in front of a bunch of strangers – I guess that’s the thing I admire about actors most- the ability of to be bold and vulnerable, as it’s something that is extremely daring and difficult. I really love actors that take risks. I also search for something compelling – be it charisma or emotional subtly – just that little inexplicable thing beneath the surface that draws you in.
Jamie: Writing for film can be challenging, what helps you commit to finishing a script?
Dionne: I have to be in love with it – it’s as simple as that. There are a lot of half-baked unloved ideas that are sitting on my hard drive. I wrote the 1st draft of We Love Moses seven years ago and it took a few years while before I felt ready to make it. I’ve recently finished the first draft of a feature film script, which has been in my head for 2 years and I know there’s a long challenging road ahead – but I’m in love with the story and that’s the thing that gets you over all the bumps in the road.
Jamie: Do you have a playlist of songs you listen to help boost your creativity when you write? Are there any particular songs you enjoy the most when doing so?
Dionne: Yes! Playlists are an absolute essential for me – I can’t begin a script without one and they are also the most perfect procrastination tools. I actually find it almost impossible to write without music blasting. Like all Millennials I’m all mixed up and love everything from jazz to grime – I’ll listen to anything sets the tone for the story. The script I’m writing now revolves around a character blessed with 60s female soul singers – so I’m listening to a lot of 60s soul/R&B at present.
Jamie: What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
Dionne: This film is about so many things – young girlhood, repression, femininity, masculinity, secrets, and shame and it looks at sexuality through a young black female gaze, which seems to be uncharted territory in cinema. I guess I’m interested in how our sexuality and sexual expression is conditioned and repressed from such a young age – particularly in women, so I’m happy the film has been creating a dialogue around that.
We Love Moses will be screening as part of the Short Cuts Programme 05 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.