AFF 2009 – Tina Mabry on “Mississippi Damned”

Kari and Sammy witness an incident that will impact their adult lives in "Mississippi Damned"

Kari and Sammy witness an incident that will impact their adult lives in "Mississippi Damned"

 Mississippi Damned is a family drama of three black kids struggling to escape a cycle of abuse, addiction and violence within their family as they grow up in poor, rural Mississippi.  Their only choice is to escape their circumstances, or succumb to the same fate of previous generations.  The film is based on the childhood experiences of writer/director Tina Mabry.  Tina has received numerous awards and recognition for her previous works, and is poised to gain more with Mississippi Damned.

Tina gave my magazine CinemATL an interview as part of our AFF 2009 coverage.  Following is an abbreviated version of that interview:

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Tupelo, MS.  When I graduated from high school my mother became ill so I decided to stay nearby and attend the University of Mississippi in order to help care for her.  After four years I earned Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Political Science with plans to go to law school, but I had no passion for law.  I figured if I was going to go into debt, it should at least be for a career I was passionate about.  I always had a love for film and writing, so I chose to follow my dream of filmmaking.  I entered the graduate film program at the University of Southern California and upon graduating in 2005 I used my thesis short film, Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan, as my calling card.  Soon after I got a chance to co-write a feature film entitled Itty Bitty Titty Committee.  Since then Morgan Stiff, Lee Stiff, and I started an independent production company called Morgan’s MarkMississippi Damned is our company’s first feature.

Mississippi Damned is based on your childhood experiences.  What motivated you to share such a personal experience through this film?

I came from a family that had been haunted by the lack of possibilities offered in a still somewhat impoverished state.  I wanted to explore my family’s struggles in the South and how community, landscape and politics shaped and defined our lives.  We made this film because we wanted to take a truthful look at a prevalent lifestyle that is often overlooked in mainstream films.

What were some challenges in bringing Mississippi Damned to the screen?

There were definitely challenging aspects to bringing Mississippi Damned into fruition.  We had a total of thirty-four actors, a limited budget, a period film, a hundred and nine page script, and we had to do it all in twenty-two days. So, challenging may be an understatement. However, we managed to do it with a wonderful cast and an exceptional crew.  People were invested in the story and we formed a strong camaraderie that crossed crew/cast lines.

What are the plans for Mississippi Damned?

After the film finishes its run on the festival circuit, we hope to secure traditional distribution, which would include a theatrical release.  However, if we can’t go this route, we intend to get this film to audiences because we believe in the message and the universality of the film.  It’s a film about struggle, about building a road when you have no idea where to begin.  These are things everyone can relate to.

With this film, we want to rally the disenfranchised and unite those of disparate backgrounds, goals and aspirations.  Through this film, we aim to use cinema as a means to give marginalized people a voice and to shed light on issues often overlooked because they may seem too hard to tackle. We therefore will get this film in front of audiences in a theatrical setting, whether it is a traditional or non-traditional route.  The performances are too impactful, the filmmaking too strong, and the story too important to settle for less.

Who is your hero?

I have two heroes.  One of them is my mother, who passed about in 2006, and the other is my aunt.  They have always been there for me to push me along in their own unique ways.  My mother was more of a tough love type of woman, and my aunt is very nurturing.  I always had both of them in my corner encouraging me to see the fight until the end, because giving up was not an option.

*****

Read the complete interview at CinemATL Magazine.

Mississippi Damned screens Sunday, April 19 at 3:30 pm. Tina Mabry, producer/editor Morgan R. Stiff and Atlanta area actors in the film will be in attendance. A second screening is Thursday, April 23 at 1:30 pm. 

By popular demand, a third screening has been added for Thursday, April 23 at 10:00 pm.

Mississippi Damned has been awarded the AFF Special Jury Award for Narrative Breakthrough.  Congrats to Tina, the producers and cast and crew!

Visit the Atlanta Film Festival website for more films, schedule and ticket information.

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Published in: on April 19, 2009 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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