MU Filmmaker among “25 New Faces of Independent Film”
Family is a theme that permeates Kamau Bilal’s films and documentaries Crown Candy, named Best Short Documentary at the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2017, is a portrait focusing on the family that runs a 100-year-old candy store and lunch counter in St. Louis.
“It’s a family business…my wife’s here, my niece is here, and I’ve got employees who’ve been here 20–35 years and are kind of like family to us,” owner Andy Karandzieff tells viewers in the opening sequence. Family—in this case his immediate family, is the focus of another project that has garnered a lot of attention for the independent filmmaker.
Talented New Face
Bilal’s next documentary, Baby Brother, takes viewers on the journey his youngest brother makes as he moves back in with their parents. That film was juried last spring at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It also caught the attention of Filmmaker magazine, one of the most prominent magazines for independent filmmakers. The magazine has named Bilal, an assistant teaching professor in film studies at Mizzou, one of “25 New Faces” in independent filmmaking.
“It’s really quite an honor to be included on the list…of all of the filmmakers in the world it’s amazing to have your work noticed and placed in such a prominent publication,” Bilal says. “Looking at the list of people who’ve been picked before is kind of mind-blowing—Ryan Coogler, Barry Jenkins, it’s quite humbling.” Bilal says it’s always nice to have some validation as an artist.
What’s the Buzz?
“It helps when you have a little bit of buzz to get something else cooking,” he says. What Bilal is cooking up now is the first fiction film he will direct since college, and he is returning, in a sense, to that recurring theme of family. Bilal has been conducting research for his latest project in St. Louis.
“It takes place in a neighborhood that my dad grew up in, though I’m still working on the details. It is fiction, but it will be based on things that actually take place. The people that I meet and places that I visit will be helpful in creating an authentic world. I’m approaching it from the same perspective—I’m going to use the resourcefulness and things I’ve learned in the documentary space and apply them to fiction.”
Bilal says he hopes to complete his research and produce a script by the end of the semester, with the goal of shooting the film next summer. “A script is just a roadmap or an excuse to start, and I’m just looking for that excuse to start.”