Tell us how you became inspired to create Bling.
I was told a powerful story a few years ago about the abuse of Africans in the diamond mines of Sierra Leone. Young mine workers even under the age of 10 where being murdered if they didn't fulfill certain mining quotas.
Chuck D of Public Enemy narrates the film; how did he get involved?
I met Chuck D a few years ago and told him about the project. He is such a strong political voice in Hip Hop. He felt that it was his duty to lend his voice to such an important topic.
Has the Kanye West song, "Diamonds are Forever," made it easier to get the film shown? And do you think more people are becoming more aware of what conflict diamonds are?
Yes, I think the song made it easier to get people interested in the film. Everything today seems to stem from something in pop culture. I think people are becoming more aware to a degree. Most people know very little about diamonds let alone the struggle and brutality with which we get them. My mission with this film is to educate the people. With the feature length version that I will be shooting this year we will get much more in depth.
The reactions to the film so far have been very positive. Everyone wants to know more about the topic. People are especially interested because the film is about Hip Hop.
What do you make of hip-hop's diamond obsession? How is it different from mainstream America's obsession?
It's exactly the same. Joe Suburbs spends the same portion of his income on Sally Soccer mom as Diddy does on his "rocks." The difference is that Diddy, Jay-Z and friends are celebrities or as I call them "billboards with a pulse." Also, the obsession with diamonds comes from a lot of these rappers growing up having nothing.
One of the methods to communicate that you are successful is by showing off your big ticket purchases.
You've mentioned the challenges that minority documentary filmmakers face in getting their projects financed. How can that change?
It's about creating a real infrastructure for minority filmmakers. That can come from the major Hollywood players, the Denzel Washington's and Oprah Winfrey's of the world. It is more than just financing projects that they would be in or their companies/ brand names would take part in. It's about shedding some light on projects that represent the filmmakers and their own individual backgrounds.
The problem that we run into is that non minorities often tackle subject matters such as Hip Hop, Civil Rights and minority sports figures. Subjects specifically dealing with minorities. Much of the time non minorities have the access to the tools and financing to get projects off the ground. Another problem facing minority filmmakers is when they are pigeon holed into dealing with only certain subject matters. Some of the top DVD's tend to deal with the negative aspects of our culture.
Right now I feel that the industry is more about using minority agents to export their own culture. I want to take a critical look at some of the issues that make us who we are.
Favorite subway line
F train (Queeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeens!)
Best/worst gentrification trend
Harlem... Wow, I saw young "suburban" kids zoomin down 125 blasting Green Day in a drop top Audi few months back. Things have changed. Geez.
Best music venue/club
Lions Den... Love me some broke emcees, trying to make it
Best place for a slice of pizza
A spot off 35th and 6th. $.99. Yeah....and what!
Best tabloid newspaper - NY Post or Daily News