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  • Zachary Spetzler

Culture Spotlight Featuring Raeshelle Cooke

Raeshelle Cooke is an award-winning filmmaker & founder of production company RMC Pictures. Raeshelle writes about the many misadventures of love, with music and spoken word often leading the narratives. She also writes social commentary on the current state of the country and human nature in general. She particularly likes to put women of color on the big screen and tell their stories. Raeshelle's won 4 film awards, including one from the LA Film Awards in 2016, and the Woman in Film award from the Shawna Shea Film Festival in 2019. Also, Raeshelle's film Mt. Washington screened at the Reel to Real Film Promotion featuring Omari Hardwick in NY in 2018; and her 2017 film Wrath City screened all across the country and was even accepted to the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2018.

Tell us about your experience at Hip Hop Film Festival? It was amazing! I've been to a bunch of film festivals across the country, and the Hip Hop Film Festival is one of my favorite ones, and I only have 2 favorites lol. I've been to the festival 3 times now I believe, twice as a filmmaker, and it's always been really fun and memorable experience. I remember when I first attended the festival I think it was 2017, to screen a music video I directed called Sedentary Lifestyles by Dominique LaFleur, and I was overwhelmed by the positive vibes and the community atmosphere among the filmmakers. I loved the diversity too. I felt like I belonged. I'm a southern girl, but I always like going to the city to experience the Hip Hop Film Festival. Meeting C R Capers, the director of the festival, was an awesome experience for me. Not only have I learned a lot from her insight and knowledge, but I really connected with her and look up to her. I always look forward to seeing her again when I attend the festival. When I came back to the festival in 2018 to screen my film Wrath City, it was even better, because now I knew some of the filmmakers from the last year, and the vibes were just as great. I was utterly shocked when my film was nominated for Best Short at the festival. I went to the awards ceremony not even expecting that. I remember sitting there frozen with big eyes and looking around like, "Did she just say what I think she said?" It was amazing. I always love attending the panels too; they're informative and you get a chance to meet important people in the industry who give their insight on how they accomplished their goals in the industry. I also love the location, Harlem, NY. I enjoy walking around the city and looking at the beautiful brownstones and wall art; I also love eating at the soul food spots. I don't get to eat soul food because I live in Massachusetts, so it's always great to try new places whenever I'm in the area. Takes me back to my roots in North Carolina whenever I get to eat a good southern meal.

Why are stories from the culture important? It's important to tell stories about us, for us and by us, because we have unique experiences and perspectives that no one else has, and they need to be told, and those stories are not being told. They're not being told on a grand scale I mean, or they're being hidden and edited and filtered in other instances, and that's not good either. We have an important voice and we should let our voices be heard without fear, whatever it is that we experience or have to say or share, it should be told.

What projects are you working on now? I'm finishing up a sci-fi short film called "Woke", about the last African-American woman alive in the year 3000 after all black women were killed off due to a "race war". When this woke black woman discovers a pair of futuristic goggles that tells her what that race war was, she becomes TRULY woke for the first time ever in her life. The film comments on the ignorance that the word "woke" has taken on in the black community today. It will be in the can in February and sent to film festivals. I'm looking for a sci-fi writer to write the short into a feature. The short will be a proof of concept for the feature and shown to investors. I hope we can get a feature of this film made. Many people have commented that they would love to see the movie because it sounds really interesting, so I think the film could do well financially. I would love to premiere the short film at the Harlem Film House in February and am definitely trying to make that happen! The thought of screening a controversial film in New York, a film that tells the truth, but that black people may be offended by, and IN New York, scares the crap out of me. It makes me uneasy and scared as hell. That feeling is how I know I need to do it. If I'm comfortable I am not living up to my fullest potential, and nothing great ever happens in your comfort zone. This topic is an important one to have in my community and it isn't being had. It's too touchy. I'm ready to have it, and to hopefully do my part in ridding ignorance and self-bondage and self-hate in the black community. I'm ready to make a positive impact with this film, but I'm also ready for the smoke so I'm ecstatic to get on with the next phase.

Why do you think the Harlem film house and Hip Hop Film Festival is important?

The Hip Hop Film Festival I feel gives us an opportunity to tell our stories that are unique to our experiences and perspectives, perspectives that are not embraced at just any film festival. Where other festivals would reject a film because the film is about something they do not understand or agree with because it is not their culture or concern, the Hip Hop Film Festival on the other hand would embrace that film. They would embrace it and honor it and celebrate it, because the Hip Hope Film Festival is for our culture, and for the hip hip culture. The festival celebrates legendary people from our culture too, people who are not celebrated at other festivals, and people who are otherwise forgotten about in the mainstream. I really appreciate the festival for that and more.

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