S. E. Williams
UCR Professor Rickerby Hinds has been called “one of the most influential individuals to come into the theater world in a generation.”
This assessment of his talents was affirmed in January during this year’s celebrated Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where Hinds was invited to premiere his acclaimed film, “My Name Is Myeisha” and where the film received top honors.
The hip-hop modulated film tells the story of the police killing of African American teenager Tyisha Shenee Miller, shot to death by officers in December 1998—a killing that rocked the inland region. The film tells the story of the teenager as she “crosses over into a hip-hop-musical dreamscape at the moment of her tragic death and contemplates her life; what it was and what it could have been.” It is an adaptation of an original work written by Hinds—the screenplay resulted from a collaborative effort between himself and the film’s director Gus Krieger.
In a recent interview with The Voice, Hinds discussed his excitement when he learned upon arrival in Park City that “My Name Is Myeisha” was already receiving a lot of “buzz” from Slamdance staff members who had viewed it.
“We got really good feedback,” he shared. According to Hinds, one staff member even took time to introduce him and other members of his team to various filmmakers, Slamdance staff members, and others. “This was my first film festival,” Hinds continued as he described how it provided an opportunity for him to understand the dynamics of the festival process and talk to people about his film and about theirs.
Hinds’ son, Alexander, who was with him in Park City as part of the film’s team, also found his own niche in entertainment online with others at both Slamdance and Sundance during the week’s events.
Slamdance 2018 began Friday, January 19 and ran through Thursday, January 25. “My Name Is Myeisha” had two viewings: Sunday, January 21 and Tuesday, January 23.
“Sunday afternoon we got incredible feedback from the audience about how we handled the subject matter,” Hinds said. The film exposes the complicated relationship between the African American community and the police in a manner Hinds described as “very non-linear.” “It is almost designed to be like a dream,” he shared.
Hinds went on to describe how thrilled his entire team was after the second showing. “We were alerted to have someone stay for Thursday’s Awards Ceremony.”
The team soon learned why the unexpected invitation was extended. Slamdance president Peter Baxter said, “My Name Is Myeisha” is one of the best feature narratives to have played at Slamdance and central to its success is the performance of Rhaechyl Walker, one of the best I have ever seen.”
At the awards ceremony, “My Name Is Myeisha” was honored with the Audience Beyond Feature Award and Walker was also honored with an Acting Award for her breakout performance.
“When we started this project seven years ago on a stage at an open mic night, the thought of our story being amplified on a silver screen never entered my mind,” Walker said when commenting on the award. “I am so proud, and beyond honored to be a part of such a powerful force of artistic expression that has found its way into many hearts, planted a seed, and nourished souls. Thank you, Slamdance, for providing this amazing platform, and for this phenomenal award.”
Hinds shared what it was like for their cast members to be in a place where right across the street all these big stars were gathered for the Sundance Film Festival. He acknowledged what it meant to them “to be in that space and to be acknowledged for what they’ve done.” He added, “I think overall for everyone involved, it was a great feeling to have worked on this film on a $200k budget and for this story, that is so specific for this region, to be recognized.”
The 20-year-old Slamdance Film Festival runs concurrent with the Sundance Film Festival. It is defined as a showcase for raw and innovative filmmaking, self-governed By Filmakers, For Filmmakers.
This year’s Slamdance lineup included 16 premieres—9 World, 6 North American, and 1 US premiere. Most titles were produced in the US, with additional features from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, and Netherlands. All competition films are feature-length directorial debuts with budgets of less than one million dollars and without US distribution.
Hinds has received a number of invitations to include “My Name Is Myeisha” in other film festivals and has already accepted invitations to festivals in Nebraska, Alabama, and will be showing at the Arc Light Theater in May. In the meantime, they continue to search for a distributor. The goal, Hinds said, is to get the film into theaters, on demand, online video and/or any platform to allow it to be seen by a broader audience. In the meantime, Hinds is already thinking ahead to his next film project.
As a Full Professor of Playwriting in the Department of Theater, Film & Digital Production at UCR and the Founding Director of the Center for Film and New Media, Hinds lives his dual commitment to education and the community
“We are looking to bring in more faculty members that can teach classes on campus, through the UCR Extension Program to give the community access, and toward establishing the Center for Film and New Media. The goal, he said, is to tell stories like “My Name Is Myeisha” on film and to create new stories. In addition, Hinds is intent on creating different ways of exposing the Inland Empire to the world beyond the caricature that currently exists.
Hinds credits UCR for helping him make his vision a reality. “The university has been supportive in regard to the film itself and the center,” he said as he highlighted their investments in these efforts. “So, I think there is going to be a nice growth of stories coming from this region, from students, residents, and professionals to help us redefine the region.”
To learn more about the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival, visit https://slamdance2018.eventive.org.