The 15th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival kicks off Thursday this week at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave) Thursday, June 27th with the film, “Things Never Said” starring Boston natives Elimu Nelson (Showtime’s House of Lies) and Michael Beach; along with Shanola Hampton (Showtime’s Shameless) and Omari Hardwick (BET’s up and coming Being Mary Jane).
The film has a central theme of the complexities of moving forward and finding individual truth. I got the opportunity to talk with director Charles Murray about how the film came to be, and if the characters finally say what needed to be said.
Boston Fab: How did story line of Things Never Said come to be?
Charles Murray: In a round about way it is based on my mother, Beatrice Murray’s life. She and my father had issues. He was a blue collar working class man that could only see his present circumstances. She had a fascinating life, but made a lot of choices that went against her betterment. I wanted to explore [the possible reasons] why she didn’t choose differently or move on.
The poetry theme of the film came from me going to slam events around LA. I exchanged the poetry world for the church world because I didn’t want this story to be about church, and to me, they perform a similar function.
BF: How important was it for you to find actors that had a poetry background, like Omari Hardwick?
CM: I had seen Omari perform when I went out to poetry slams around L.A., but he hadn’t been in anything that I remembered seeing, as an actor. 5 or 6 years later I saw him again as actor, but when our casting director Scott David brought him in, I had actually forgotten that he was even a poet. Then later I went on his website, and it all came together; so it really happened backwards.
For the film, I wrote all of Kalindra’s poetry, the poets in the slams were actual poets who performed their own pieces and Omari wrote his own poetry.
BF: I noticed that you paid a lot of attention the naming of the characters like Kalindra, Ronnie and Curtis Jackson (no-not that Curtis Jackson). Tell us more about that.
CM: I have a theory about names. Like how long does a person hold onto a nick name? If you were “Boogie” as a child, are you still “Boogie” at 50? Like for Ronnie, he even has his name Ronnie written on is name tag, not Ronald, so that becomes a subtle extension of how he’s stuck in the time when he was All-American.
For Curtis Jackson, I just liked the name Curtis Jackson, I wrote the script in “03, so I added the reference to 50 cent later.
For Kalindra, I’m influenced a lot by Spike Lee, and thought of the name Lola Darling [She’s Gotta Have It]. When you heard the name Lola Darling, you didn’t forget it. I don’t even know a Kalindra, but I wanted her name to be different from the rest. I wanted it to be memorable.
BF: With films like Tyler Perry’s Temptation and the hit TV show Scandal, it seems to becoming a popular trend to write themes about black women cheating on their husbands or partners. Can you comment on that?
CM: I wrote this script back in ’03, so at the time there was no Temptation or Scandal. When I presented the film, executives didn’t like it because she cheated. I feel like everybody cheats, and by that I mean I’m not a gender specific person that thinks only men or only women cheat. Everyone is capable of everything, though the way that they express it may come off differently. If you don’t think that way, you are limiting the perspective of life told through drama. If someone is unhappy in a situation, they are going to find something to fill their cup.
Films should reflect what happens in real life. I didn’t want the film to have set villains. People you are friends with, maybe even family members, can do some emotionally violent things; they can have a moment of weakness that can make you question everything. That is real drama.
BF: You used really attractive people for all the roles in this film when other directors may have shied away from Kalindra for example, being so beautiful. Did you think about that in casting?
CM: Beautiful people suffer the same as people who aren’t. Skinny people are hated on just as much as fat people. If you saw pictures of my mom in her 20’s, she always had cats saying to her “You’re too pretty to be in this situation.” People who have seen the film questioned Elimu as a gas station attendant because they said, “Nobody who looks like that pumps gas.” I was like, “Do you even look at the person behind the counter?” Look at some of the UPS dudes that women can’t wait to come to the door. Or how many times have you heard someone say, “He’s fine, but he’s 47 going on 12; just floating through life?”
Shanola owned the character. I cast her because she can act. She just happens to be beautiful.
BF: At the end of the film, you leave us with some things to think about. Do the characters really say what needed to be said?
CM: Real drama is looking at what is going on right now. If someone calls you and tells you that a specific problem in your life is going to end at 3:45, at 3:45 you are relieved, but at 4:00 you’ve still got problems. You just have a different problem. Special movies are smart enough to let the story be what it is, and the character’s life goes on. Once a problem is solved, it doesn’t mean that your entire life is solved. I close it in a way that you feel that her life goes on. She still has a lot to work through. Things being said is a lifelong requirement.
See the 15th Annual Roxbury International Film Festival opening night film Things Never Said at the Museum of Fine Arts – Remis Autiorium (465 Huntington Ave) Thursday, June 24th at 7:00pm. The evening will also feature a talk with actor Elimu Nelson after the film. To purchase tickets click here!
See you there!