By Farhan Muhammad
As an outspoken, young, black director Ruth Holders’ debut film ‘Lost Identity’ depicted scenes of faltering self-worth in the face of an ever-increasing public social sphere. Ruth now returns to shine light on her perspectives on identity surrounding the black lives matter movement whilst discussing the changes that Hollywood blockbusters should pursue to inspire young leaders.
Although hiring a token POC as talent in the film industry has often been criticised, What facets of black culture do you feel need to be highlighted?
Honestly, for me I’m interested in seeing a diverse representation of black characters that step away from the stereotype that’s set by the media. So, for example, we get the strong women and men trope, although its empowering to young black people, it also affects them as it depicts women and men as stoic no matter the situation. This can affect the black community, especially men, as they aren’t seen as strong if they are struggling to cope with mental health. I want to see for example more awkward black girls, or more superhero characters, more black love stories I don’t see enough of that. I want to see the media step away from stereotypes and I want them to explore more.
There’s not many black writers in Hollywood or TV writer rooms so there’s not many black writers in their crew. So, they just cast black characters as these generic archetypes because they don’t understand how to write them. Shows like ‘Insecure’ that are written entirely by black people understand how to develop black characters.
Your latest YouTube release outlined why YA blockbusters need to make a comeback in 2020. Could you explain to our readers why you think they are important and how they differ from the more recent young adult series on Netflix?
YA blockbusters are important because it gives filmmakers a large platform to tell impactful stories on a huge scale. Netflix is huge and it’s one of the ways young people consume media. But when Harry Potter or Hunger Games, was out it was such a huge part of our culture. It was so integrated into our lives it affected how people saw young adults. Kids were inspired to create their own content from watching these films. You can see that right now. Where young people are taking a stand to enter the mainstage and tackle political dialogue. Especially in 2020, right now young people are speaking up like John Boyega in the BLM protests in London or Thunberg, and her work for climate change. She stands up for climate change and the environment. I find this very empowering and I believe that YA blockbusters, when done right, can be used to inspire the next generation.’
You’ve expressed a need to utilise young adult talent into films instead of employing already established actors. What change would bringing younger actors into films add?
Young people don’t get the opportunity to be an essential part of the crew or casting. The industry constantly tells young people that they need experience for these roles, but don’t give them the chance to gain that experience.’ They are chasing any small opportunity but nothing huge early in their career. Even with me, I felt it as well when I was first starting out. I kept trying to get positions on film crews and stuff, but the only thing I was given was the role of the runner. Young people will happily do these roles as at least it’s something. For ‘Lost identity’, almost everyone on set was a young person and the experience they gained from that film is something a lot of young people don’t get. Whether they’re cast or crew, if they fail or succeed, they can have that experience. So, they can grow in their career.
What skills did you develop making Lost identity that you feel are integral to film design?
Not a very common one but for me enjoying myself. On ‘Lost Identity’ I wasn’t enjoying myself on set, I felt very distant. I was boxed in because I felt like I had to be. I stopped myself from enjoying the experience and because of that as we finished filming, I didn’t even think that I filmed that day. It only took after filming, for me to convince myself that I did direct the camera shots, the dancer. But when I was on set, I was very out of it. I want to enjoy every process; I want to come up with the ideas, and relish in the fact that I get to direct it all.
Why do you feel like the youth are ignored in media in reference to the lack of coverage regarding Corona?
I think they are ignored because we aren’t seen as a priority. I feel like that mindset needs to be changed, because so many young people during lockdown are struggling with their mental health. They don’t know what to do with themselves, they feel trapped in their own homes, and the government didn’t say anything. The government has stated that they’re trying to fund a scheme to help young people get work and get employers to see them as more employable.’ Even in the education system, with online classes, doing it online there’s still that distance; a lot of young people don’t know what to do right now during lockdown. The government needs to see that young people are struggling right now, even as the lockdown is easing up, and to prioritize getting young people the help they need.’
Tell me about Blue! Your upcoming project
Blue is a cyberpunk short film about two amateur bounty hunters that band together to save a runaway child. At the core I want the film to explore how young people struggle to find their purpose in their own life. A lot of young people during school are forced to think about what they wanna do with their life. Society also teaches us to get a good education then get a job then after that get married, then kids, then retire and the cycle starts again. This is the traditional path that we’ve been taught, but if you veer away you get ridiculed. You’re seen as something not normal and you’re not encouraged by society to pursue your dreams, and you’re trapped in this cycle and they fear what other people are gonna say. With this film I want to explore that with the bounty hunters. All three main characters are black, because I wanted to see myself represented in a genre that I enjoy. I feel like there’s not enough portrayals of black men and women, especially in main roles, in science fiction and its important to me to see myself represented in film. And to also be part of the change that I want to see.