Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Dir. Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson; Prod. Amilca Palmer
In 2003, Oprah Winfrey sought out some of America’s greatest poets to contribute to an issue of OWN Magazine dedicated to the different parts of the human body. There was a mad dash by poets to choose the heart, the brain and the skin to serve as poetic metaphor for their balladry. African-American poet Nikki Giovanni’s choice best illustrates her approach to life. She chose the feet and then spun a compelling and inspirational tale using the feet of African American women to describe their struggle and ultimate triumph over oppression. This is the life work of Nikki Giovanni, using poetry, humor and satire to inspire us to think, challenge assumptions and ultimately demand equity and justice.
Going to Mars (working title) is a feature length documentary film in which the artist, one of America’s greatest living poets, orators and social commentators, will compel audiences to laugh and cry using her poetry and biting social commentary. As a social commentator Nikki Giovanni stands toe-to-toe with the best. She has the satirical wit of a Will Rogers and the comedic timing of David Letterman. She has influenced both her contemporaries, from Muhammad Ali to Maya Angelou, as well as today’s hip-hop artists such as Kanye West. She in turn demands, using a contrarian point of view, that we question our assumptions about race, gender, equity and privilege and challenges us to hope and dream for a better tomorrow.
Going to Mars opens in the present-day, as she walks on stage in a New York City theater to deliver more than just her poetry. One thousand theater goers come to hear her. Mostly they have come to listen to her personal stories of love, loss, and family. Over the course of the film we will travel through time, going back and forth from her speech to the historical events she experienced, and to current personal intimate moments — all told exclusively through her voice, both archival and current. We will experience Nikki’s musings on ancient history and travel with her on a slaveship through the Middle Passage. She will share and recount emotions associated with her grandmother’s pound cake then make astute connections between the Civil Rights Movement and today’s Black Lives Matter movement. We will travel to Mars from the vantage point of a 17th century slave voyage. All of this in ninety minutes while laughing, crying and questioning.