Thursday
Jun252009

Director's Statement

 

 

It was in August of 1994 when I first heard the name Robert “Yummy” Sandifer. The name and the circumstances surrounding it was permanently etched in my mind, not only for the insidious nature of his death, but also because it happened just a few days before my 34th birthday.

I was also raised on the south side of Chicago, so I was no stranger to the gangs and the destruction that followed them, but for an entire community and me this seemed especially evil. Here was a kid who was considered a bad seed by the people who knew him, someone who got what he had coming. But as his complex back-story would reveal, Yummy was also a kid who had very few choices and the ones he chose lead to his murder. His story was the fuel that ignited the idea behind The Black Shield- a story about a group of inner city kids who are forced to grow up in a community where violence is the norm and fathers are either marginalized or nonexistent. These kids could make some of the same choices Yummy made if not for their belief in the power of the black super hero depicted on the pages of this urban comic book called The Black Shield. It is a belief so strong that they are able to will him into existence and as a result give a once powerless community the strength to take control of their lives.

The trick in writing the script was how my co-writer and I would take that idea and weave it into a seamless story about growing up on the south side of Chicago. It had to be done in a realistic way, but still allow for the presence of fantasy and imagination. Then I remembered watching the Spanish film, "The Spirit of the Beehive" during my days of endless movie watching at the University of Chicago’s Film Department and called on that for inspiration as we worked on the script. The film, "The Spirit of the Beehive" was a story about a child living in a small Spanish village during the 1940s.  One evening, he watches the Boris Karloff film Frankenstein and becomes possessed by the memory of it. In using this film as the template for my story I believe the script now has a dramatic inner city narrative, and at the same time deals with the hope and optimism that can only be expressed through the eyes of a child’s vivid imagination.

As I move toward the filming process I continue to draw from Yummy’s story because it represents a sad reality millions of kids have to face on a daily basis. Kids, that if given a small window to see out of their current situation and into a world of greater possibilities, could find that glimmer of hope that it takes to actually change lives.