We Love Dionne Edwards, the Director of ‘We Love Moses’
Do you remember you first obsessive crush? Pretty intense, huh? Well, Ella had one too. She is the protagonist of We Love Moses. When Ella was twelve, she had her first fight. And when she was twelve, she discovered sex. Now eighteen, Ella reflects on how her obsession with her older brother Michael’s best friend Moses left her with a secret she still carries.
It is one of the few films competing in the international shorts category as well as in the Best British category. The story has twists at every turn, so hold on to your seats at the festival – but for now, there’ll be no spoilers! Writer-director Dionne Edwards talks instead about black representation in film and her writing processes.
YOU SAID YOU WANTED TO MAKE THIS FILM BECAUSE THERE ISN’T A LOT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF YOUNG BLACK WOMEN IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA. SO, WHEN YOU WERE THE SAME AGE AS THE PROTAGONIST, DID YOU SEE ANY REPRESENTATION OF YOURSELF?
Definitely not on the UK side. But I watched a lot of American sitcoms like Moesha, Sister Sister, Kenan & Kel, Smart Guy. There were a lot of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows that were pretty amazing and they had that representation. But they were young black American characters. There wasn’t really a lot UK wise. Then on the queer side of things as well – yeah, not a lot.
DO YOU THINK IT’S BETTER NOW?
It is better in terms of representation of young black people, yeah. There are a lot of people particularly in television I think, like Michaela Coel of Chewing Gum. There’s a lot more UK stuff, but in terms of cinema, it’s slightly behind. Films like Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood and Adulthood dominate, but there’s not much variety in terms of black representations.
I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS FILM WAS A LABOUR OF LOVE. YOU WROTE IT A WHILE BACK AND YOU MADE OTHER SHORTS FIRST TO PRACTICE FILMMAKING. SO, WHAT MAKES WE LOVE MOSES SO SIGNIFICANT AND PERSONAL?
I graduated from university. Then, I spent some time in the film industry but realised I wasn’t actually making films. When I was 24, I realised that you can’t work your way up to being a director. So, I thought let me just go and learn how to make films. I didn’t have the skills as a director to go straight into something like We Love Moses. I had already written it while I was in the film industry. It was something I really needed to understand how to make. So, I spent a few years making contacts, making shorts, and working on other people’s shorts. But I have always wanted to make personal and significant stuff, really.
WHEN YOU’RE WRITING, DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC RITUALS? DO YOU NEED TO HAVE A CUP OF TEA, DO YOU NEED MUSIC?
I’m trying to get off of it but it’s always been coffee. It’s like a drug at the moment. And I have to listen to music. I cannot do any kind of work without music on. I am writing a feature film at the moment and I’ve got a huge playlist for it. It sets the tone and the mood.
DO YOU HAVE THAT THING THAT ONCE YOU GET REALLY INTO THE WRITING, YOU DON’T EAT OR ANYTHING?
I’m trying to stop myself from doing that because I’ll end up crashing. I forget to eat and I forget everything. I need to make sure I have lunch and I have breaks. Yeah, that’s definitely important. [Laughs]
YOU SAID YOUR BIGGEST HURDLE IS THAT AS A BLACK, QUEER WOMAN YOU HAVE TO KEEP IN MIND ALL THE NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES WHILE WRITING.
Yeah, that’s one of the things I struggle with sometimes. I read a lot of critical theories. I try to be a critical thinker. But when you’re writing a story, these two can knock heads a bit. As a storyteller, you can’t be concerned with having positive representations. It’s going to get in your way. And a lot of the characters I am drawn to tend to be quite flawed. That has to do with several people I have had in my life growing up.
At the same time, you have to be aware when you’re writing that stereotypes come through very easily. There is the stereotype of the angry black woman. But what if your character is feeling angry and she is a black woman? You have to think, okay well, where is this coming from? Is this coming from the stereotype or is this the actual character? So, you have to be aware but not let it stop you from writing true characters.
These are good questions! Different from the ones I’m usually asked. So, I actually enjoyed that. [Laughs]
‘We Love Moses’ will be screened as part of the Iris Prize Shorts Programme 1.