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  • Writer's pictureArmiel Chandler

Culture Spotlight Featuring Richard Mckeown

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

is the founder and president of KoolKidz Television & Publishing, LLC. Established in 2005, KoolKidz has garnered over 300 Film Festival selections and awards worldwide. His afro-centric children’s DVD’s are available in libraries throughout the United States and Canada. He brings 15 years of experience working for publishing and entertainment giants Prentice Hall/Simon & Schuster; Sony Video; Boosey & Hawkes; Bertelsmann Music Group & HBO combined with an additional 12 years in sales.

Rich is the producer of the award-winning feature documentary American Beatboxer, which is currently being broadcast on The Urban Movie Channel after enjoying a two-year run on Revolt TV. In 2014, American Beatboxer was inducted into New York University’s Hip Hop Education Center, the Harvard Hip Hop Archives and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives. He is also producer and executive producer for the award-winning American Beatboxer: The Docu-Series Pilot which won Best Docu-Series at the 2017 Hip Hop Film Festival.

As a public speaker and educator, Rich has conducted several workshops for the National Black Children’s Development Institute, has presented at Columbia College in Chicago, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and had 4 Film/Beatbox workshop residencies with Harvard Office of the Arts. During 2018, Rich was named Arts Hub Leader for the Mandela Washington Fellows who attend Wagner College on Staten Island, NY. He became a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow Reciprocal Awardee for instructing a 10-day micro-budget filmmaking workshop and directed two documentaries in Equatorial Guinea.

Presently, Rich is working his second documentary on the subject of African dance and music from the Guinea and Mali regions of Africa. The first film New York to Conakry is currently in the international film fest circuit and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2018 Hip Hop Film Festival. Ecole Fula Flute is the 2nd film about a little school in Conakry Guinea that teaches “street kids” theater, playing and reading music along with basic education. It is currently a 5 minute short that will be expanded in 2020.

Tell us about your experience at Hip Hop Film Festival? I participated in the inaugural festival as a speaker on the Digital Distribution Panel in 2016. The following year my team won Best Docu-series at the Urban Web Summit portion of the fest for our pilot American Beatboxer: The Docu-Series. In 2019 my documentary, New York to Conakry, which was mostly shot in Guinea, West Africa, was nominated for Best Documentary. It was a two-man crew, along with my partner in music and film Peter Hucey throughout the entire production, so I was extremely proud of our showing. After that have have been working with founder C.R. Capers as director of Hip Hop Film Fest Africa. I have been working with Mandela Washington Fellows throughout the Motherland over the last two years. I did a micro-budget film workshop in Equatorial Guinea last year with Valerio O. Thompson Boco. With C.R we launched Hip Hop Film Fest Nairobi with Fellow Peter Bwire and Hip Hop Film Fest Ivory Coast with Fellow Moussa Kone.

Why are stories from the culture important? I always say that it is our responsibility to tell OUR own stories. As one who grew up with Hip Hop from its infancy, participated in and documented it, It is a tenant that I live by. Encouraging and teaching others is what I'm about.

What projects are you working on now? I am currently planning my return to Guinea to expand on a 5-minute doc I shot and cut last March as well as conduct my micro-budget workshop in a university and NGO there. I was recently invited to join the Universal Hip Hop Museum's film and TV staff. We will be doing a documentary of the museum's construction which is due to be completed in 2023 juxtaposed over the last 4 decades of Hip Hop.

Why do you think the Harlem film house and Hip Hop Film Festival is important? Well, obviously I am very biased as far as that question is concerned. I refer to it as my home festival. It's unique in its devotion to the filmmakers. That to me is what makes it really stand out. I think it's great to have a local home in The Harlem Film House that provides great services, resources, and product development in their Act Up, We Watch programs and the streaming platform 24/7 Films. Shout out to the Caper sisters, Armiel and my girl Jamila!

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