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  • Writer's pictureArmiel Chandler

Culture Spotlight Featuring Teo Frank

Born on October 10, 1995, near the French's alps, Teo Frank's age is 24. He was interested in extreme sports from a young age and started his film career by doing free-skiing videos when he was 15 years old. His hobby became a strong passion for him and when he was 18, he decided to drop out of college education to follow his dream. Frank moved to Paris and started to collaborate with companies. He started to get paid to shoot videos across the world. From 2015 to 2017, he collaborated multiple times with the superstar tennis player: Serena Williams and the iconic Vogue magazine. Besides the French journalist, Alexandre Delperier, he produced a mini-series about the champion's league final for the television. The mini-series drew millions of viewers in France and featured many world-known players including Daniel Alves, Edinson Cavani, and more. While on vacation in Alaska, Teo randomly met a hip-hop artist manager. This fluke led Frank to initiate a documentary feature film on his meeting with independent American hip-hop artists from the label Don't Sleep Records. The shooting took place in New York, London, and even Paris over two years. In 2018, Underdogs was finally completed. Underdogs world-premiered in Los Angeles in October 2018 where it won its first award at an international film festival for "Best Music Documentary Film''. In 2019, Underdogs won "Best Documentary" at the Hip Hop Film Festival in Harlem, New York City, and was released on Netflix worldwide. In February 2020, RedBull Media House released it on its platform as well.

Tell us about your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival? It was the end of the road for my film, simple as that. To find myself amongst those artists along with my team and family was the biggest reward I could think of.“Underdogs” is a love letter to Hip-hop culture for many reasons and when we arrived at the National Black Theater... It felt to us like we came to deliver the letter (And I came all the way from Paris ahah). This place has the energy of a temple, it is very mystical in away. The award ceremony reminded me that it’s a powerful thing to get in a room with complete strangers and to remind us ourselves of our humanity. I could have easily felt excluded because of my "color", my nationality, or my age, but the exact contrary happened—that night when we won "Best Documentary" award I truly felt like a citizen of the world.  

Why are stories from the culture important? One of my favorite classical music composers, Stravinsky, once said: “When we create, we all look for the same thing: a fresh spot on our pillow”. And to me, that is exactly what stories from the culture are and should be taken for. They are the stories of today, as fresh as it gets if you will. We are living in a time where being an entrepreneur and having an independent way of thinking has never been so popular and to me, that itself is: Hip-Hop. Every human being from the twenty-one century should take inspiration from this culture. Its roots are made of hope, will power and dream amongst many other vital elements which define us as complex but yet sensitive and powerful beings... And like Awon wrote in one of his songs: “If you master yourself your limit is the sky”, so if you give the credit those stories deserve, you might end up knowing you better and be a better version of you. 

What projects are you working on now? I’m moving from documentary filmmaking to narrative. Netflix acquired my film, "Underdogs",  late 2019 thanks to our international distributor: "Trace Content Distribution" and since then, I've been focusing on writing a screenplay for a short narrative film. We are waiting to debut shooting, hopefully by this fall 2020. This film will take place between Los Angeles and the Kern Valley in California. 

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

The Hip-hop culture is quite young and to me, that’s extremely exciting. On one hand, it is moving fast and major changes are happening quite often. But on the other hand, a legacy has already emerged and we need to maintain it. We have to take care of it almost like aristocratic families were dealing with their descendants... We should celebrate and pay tribute to Hip Hop culture the same way we still celebrate the Italian Renaissance of Raphael or the sur-réalisme of Dali in painting. Hip-hop culture has directly influenced the world of today and institutions or events such as “Hip Hop Film Festival” or “Harlem Film House” represent the third eye: open and kind. Hopefully, my grandchildren will know of “Masta Ace"...

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