Breaking societal norms comes easily to Janelle Monáe. Her latest album Dirty Computer shined bright with funk, soft falsettos and soul, allowing viewers to get caught up in the accompanying film of the same name. As she continues to rule 2018 with her Dirty Computer tour, the creative maverick is also sharing her platform with female filmmakers for the "Beautiful Future" campaign.
Monáe crafted the project with Belvedere earlier this year, which highlights four short films by female directors. The talented filmmakers include Janicza Bravo, Lacey Duke, Kirsten Lepore and Megan Park. All of the films hold a special message on how they envision their beautiful future.
"When I sat down with Belevdere and I told them some of the initiates that I had, and they shared some of the initiatives they had, "The Beautiful Future" campaign was one that we were both aligned on," she explained to us after her jaw-dropping set at Afropunk Sunday (Aug. 26). "We both shared a similar value with wanting to uplift women and women's voices. All the women are just incredible directors, and they have such a unique perspective."
The project is also in conjunction with Monáe's organization Fem the Future, that leads the fight for more women in the arts. Statistics from Women and Hollywood highlight just how scarce women the in the film industry are, despite current movements like #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite.
In 2017, only 18 percent of women were directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. The presence of women of color in front of the camera also poses more efforts to change the tides in Hollywood. 74 percent of major female characters were white, 14 percent were black, 6 percent were Latina, 4 percent were Asian, and 2 percent were of another race or ethnicity, the site notes. Independent films are favorable for women as they place women as the main character (65 percent) compared to feature films (35 percent).
The first release in the Beautiful Future series flips the stats with Goodnight. Directed by Megan Park, the short film features Francia Raisa (Grown-ish) as Emma, who engages in conversation with her deceased mother by way of technology the evening before her wedding.
Anecdotes like the use of hija and tranquilla showcase just how important culture is to Emma and just how strong a story between Latinx women can be.
"I think it's important to reveal more voices and perspectives because, for a long time, a lot of people weren't given that opportunity," Park says in behind-the-scenes footage of the film. "There's more than one story out there and we need to tell them."
Monáe is also holding up her mission to inspire on film as well. After receiving critical success for her breakout roles in Moonlight and Hidden Figures, the artist starred in the Phillip K. Dick Amazon anthology series, Electric Dreams and will be a part of one the "most original" movies of this year with Welcome To Marwen this Christmas.
"Now that I'm involved in the film industry, I feel inspired even more to tell unique stories, to tell stories from the perspective of us, of black women and I hope we get to tell more," Monáe says. She's also hoping to bridge a gap between marginalized groups with the presence of more women of color in the director's chair.
The next film in the series comes from collaborator Lacey Duke. Her touching film XO centers around an elderly woman who finds independence in simply making a choice.
"A beautiful future is when everyone is able," Duke explains. "Able and empowered to move independently as one desires. A large portion of our population is elderly and differently abled. When we speak about the future they aren't apart of that conversation and that's the reason why I wanted to tell the story from her perspective."
For Monáe, her beautiful future supplies inspiration to everyone. "My beautiful future is one built on interconnectedness and allowing us all to understand that we all have a responsibility, in my opinion, to be allies together," she says.
"When I think of marginalized groups from the LGBTQIA community, to women, to poor folks, to immigrants, to minorities, disabled folks, etc., I feel as though we can highlight our stories more authentically than others who are watching and be able to identify in some way shape or form," she added. "They'd want to walk in their truth even more. They'll start to be empowered and start making more changes and becoming more unified."
Watch both Goodnight and XO on Belvedere's YouTube page here.