African-American voices heard loud and clear at Oxford Film Festival

Posted on Feb 7 2018 - 7:56am by Kiara Manning

Standout pieces from African-American directors and filmmakers are making their debut in this year’s Oxford Film Festival.

Two of this year’s filmmakers, Andre Hill and Astin Rocks, both showcase their different approaches when it comes to telling their stories in film. Hill’s “Trust and Believe” is premiering in the music video category, while Rocks’ visual album “Love Soliloquy” is being shown as a Mississippi feature.

Hill takes viewers on an emotional journey in his music video “Trust and Believe,” which is dedicated to his late brother. Hill said the video is aimed to honor his brother’s legacy and was made to show people how they can turn their pain into something positive.

“My brother was murdered, and his killer was on the run for three months, but it felt like much longer. I knew my mom was hurting because my brother’s birthday was approaching, and it was just painful to think about,” Hill said. “It was like we lost our loved one, and to make matters worse, his birthday came and the authorities still can’t find the killer. I wanted my mother to have a reason to smile on my brother’s birthday and that played a major role in my creating the video.”

Hill has been making music and directing music videos for two years now after growing up listening to his favorite rap artists as a child. He credits himself as his inspiration and uses his imagination and real-life experiences when it comes to creating. As of right now, Hill has only produced music videos but is in the process of writing and directing a short film.

“I fell in love with directing while making this video. Sometimes words fail, but you can show exactly how you feel with film. I think this video is a window to my soul because I put all my anger and frustrations into making it,” Hill said.

Rocks’ visual album takes on more of a “Lemonade” feel. She explained that “Love Soliloquy,” which takes its inspiration from Beyonce’s latest studio album, is comprised of six songs and poems performed by Clouds & Crayons. Each song is a visual depiction of a relationship, whether it’s a relationship with a lover, oneself or lack of one altogether.

Rocks said “Love Soliloquy” is her second film in which she applied different visuals to a collection of musical pieces. They connect, and they stand alone. Inspiration hit Rocks after her frustration at an open mic night where she wanted to prove she was more than a lyricist or a writer.

“I wanted to show, to portray, exactly how I was feeling through movement. I didn’t know how to do that until Beyonce released her self-titled visual album. And I thought, ‘Wow, I can do that!’” she said.

“Love Soliloquy” is the first project Rocks received a grant for. The Mississippi Film Video Alliance grant partnerships with the festival and allowed Rocks to visit Oxford for the first time. Rocks said she feels directing helped her to find her voice. The rising director grew up in Atlanta before attending Temple University and later going to live in Beijing for a year. Afterwards, she moved to Mississippi, where she started mentoring high school kids, later creating her first film, “Letters from a Transient.”

“Any work of art is going to have the artist’s perception involved,” she said. “In real life, I’m vocal about my thoughts, so, naturally, it will show through my work.”