Into the Night is a speculative short film set in a fictional neighborhood where a group of young Black 20-somethings act as guardians of the streets run by mischief. The characters, who are heavily influenced by punk, were inspired by real-life black punk icons of the 70’s and 80’s. While set in present day, the film seeks to bridge the gap between black punk culture now and then. A reminder of the contributions of African-Americans to the punk genre in film and culture.
Recently rewarded a Future is Female grant, the short film will be released in Winter/Spring of 2020.
an interview with Rivka Yeker and director Laci Dent:
Into the Night encapsulates the intersections of young, Black punks. Why is that a storyline you decided to pursue?
This is a storyline that I've always been interested in and would like to continue to explore in my filmmaking.
I think that a lot of people think that black punk culture is new wave. Especially with the emergence of major platforms and brands like Afropunk and the fusion of punk with rap/hip-hop music. There is definitely a growing visibility that's important. But black people have always been in these alternative spaces for decades. I wanted to make a film that tried to bridge the gap between the past and present. Like, here is this group of young black kids obsessed with punk culture but in a way that's intentional and points to specific points in time. When drafting these characters I was inspired by real-life black punk rock bands of the 70's and 80's ie. X Ray Spex, Bad Brains, Fishbone, etc. aesthetically even though the protagonists in my film aren't musicians; I tried to infuse my film with the history.
Was this a film you always intended to make while in film school?
In film school, I became really interested in genre filmmaking. A lot of my projects dealt with dark subject matter and content. The idea for this particular film emerged while I was in film school, but the actual film came to life after I graduated. I left graduate film school earlier than anticipated to work an industry job and I shot and completed this film technically after leaving film school while also working.
Sometimes in film, identity takes a backseat in order to let the characters tell their story without getting caught up in the politics of it all. It's oftentimes influenced by Hollywood and mainstream media (to put identity on the back burner), but in this film it is apparent that these main characters' identities are vital to the story. Why is that?
Identity is everything in this film. I think what I ultimately wanted to do was bring some complexity to our visual understanding of black identity. We don't really see queer black characters at the forefront of anything, at least not in the mainstream. We don't even have films where black people really exist in punk culture. A lot of those films are films about white people, which is weird to me because we've contributed so much.
I think the history of movies has a punk rock current running through it. For instance, great films like Taxi Driver, movies where the characters are anti-heroes living on the fringe of society. Their mischief is humanized and lauded. Black people haven't been given that space in cinema really. We're either the goodie-two-shoes, hard criminals or overcoming some oppression-based trauma. As a filmmaker, I want to bring black characters into the grey area which ultimately is just more complexity in representation.
What is the heart of this film?
Black characters living freely. Having fun. Making their own rules and blue-print for life without a care in the world, which is revolutionary for me personally since I’m always seeing versions of myself on screen in life or death situations, worrying and having to always fight for something.
What does a film look like where we're already free?
That's the space I want to tap into. I don't want to confuse this idea with not caring about the realities that plague people of color. I want to introduce different ways that we might heal through cinema. And for me, that's simply not always dwelling on the negative and entrenching my mind in it. And envisioning worlds that haven't been envisioned. The main character, Ian, has to learn to be free and leave the personal trauma tied to his identity behind him. He has to choose happiness. He has to ultimately choose himself, which is the hard work all of us have to do.
What would you like to see more of in film?
More big weird stories about all kinds of people. Maybe in space or something I don't know yet.
More about the director:
Laci Dent is a filmmaker from New Orleans, Louisiana, however she has lived in multiple cities around the world, including London, New York, Portland OR, Green Bay and Los Angeles. She received a BA in English Literature and Film from Vassar College and an MFA in directing and production from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. She also completed course work at King’s College London, UK. She considers herself to be an emerging black female genre filmmaker. She is the founder of Nite Cloud Films, a production company and collective which seeks to produce diverse genre-inspired media.