SACRAMENTO — The central character in local filmmaker Imani Mitchell’s soon-to-be-released film, “Whirlpool,” is a man, a Black man with a hidden issue that could bring down his world.
Ms. Mitchell wrote the script and directed the film entirely in the region of Sacramento. A single mother of one child and an individual of many artistic talents, Ms. Mitchell chose to tell the story of “Malik Johnson” from a man’s perspective. Johnson is portrayed by actor, web series producer, political activist and motivational speaker Craig Stokes.
The idea was a strategic one considering many films related to the Black American experience, usually start with the Black woman. Ms. Mitchell didn’t buck a trend of sorts, but said it was essential to go Johnson’s direction.
“It is about a man named Malik Johnson. He’s a family man and he has a secret that he’s keeping from his family,” Ms. Mitchell, 26, told The OBSERVER during an interview at Underground Books in Oak Park. “Basically, at any moment, the secret could come out and destroy his family. The film follows him trying to maintain his lie.”
Ms. Mitchell said it was a “challenge” to write a script about the opposite sex, she said. When she wrote the first draft, Ms. Mitchell allowed other men view it to get their opinions.
“There were sometimes when they said, ‘This part doesn’t really sound realistic,’” she said of the men reading of the script. “So, I worked with them a little bit to make sure the dialogue was real for men, specifically, Black men.”
“Whirlpool” consitsts of an all-Black cast, just the way Ms. Mitchell designed it. She wants to be one of those filmmakers that really gets into the Black man’s true existence and bring it out on the big screen.
“I think Black men deserve to have more complex and vulnerable stories in the medium,” Ms. Mitchell said. “Often we have these monolithic, stereotypical, same roles, over and over. They (the Black men) deserve more complicated and nuisance roles. Malik is a complicated role. It has a lot of layers to him.”
There are strong women’s roles in the film too, Ms. Mitchell added. But the film does revolves around a leading male character.
If there is anyone who knows about character study in performance arts, particularly in film, stage, and television, Ms. Mitchell definitely has that background. She is a thespian who has appeared in stage plays, a few at Celebration Arts under the direction of James Wheatley.
“Whirlpool” is her first shot at filmmaking. The idea for the story came to Mitchell a couple of years ago. At the time, she didn’t know how “to sit down and execute” the script, she said. But she didn’t have to go far to pull it all together.
“Whirlpool” has traces of Mitchell’s life “sprinkled” she specified, in the script. Largely fictional, the film also represents certain occurrences known to Ms. Mitchell. The inclusion of life experiences is nothing new to story development, Mitchell said. The film is not about her, though providing some aspect of reality was a must.
Ms. Mitchell is trying to make something happen with Whirlpool and she is going to do it right here in her hometown of Sacramento. She just wrapped up a successful fundraising campaign that helped her production company I AM Studios.
Produced by Ms. Mitchell and Stokes, “Whirlpool” also stars Taylor Celine Vaughn, Moshiu T. Knox, Kiara Downs, Betty Nash, O-Naje Tyle, Courtney McKinney, and James Ellison III. The film is currently going through the editing process with a planned premier in the future.
“I’m shooting for late fall of this year,” Ms. Mitchell said of when the film could be ready for viewing. “If these reshoots go well, we’re able to edit it and put it altogether, we should be able to have local screenings.”
For more information, visit www.Whirlpool Movie.com.
By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer