University of Miami film student producer Cathleen Dean is part of the filmmaking team that won Miami Film Festival’s Wolfson Cinemaslam Award for Best Film Featuring Archival Material in 2019, for “Happy to Be Nappy”, a music video for Florida musician Alana DaCosta, directed by graduate student Xiao Che. Dean was awarded $5,000 cash. In 2020, the Award will be open to all eligible film students across the State of Florida, and this year there will be $27,500 awarded to up to five films – see details at miamifilmfestival.com/cinemaslam-2020.
Recently I spoke to Cathleen Dean about the “Happy to Be Nappy” production and her experiences with the Florida Moving Image Archives, which houses more than 35,000 hours of videotape and 23 million feet of film documenting Florida history. The below are excerpts from our conversation, which have been edited and condensed for brevity.
Q: What inspired the “Happy To Be Nappy” team to include archival footage of an interview with American writer James Baldwin as part of the video?
Cathleen Dean: The “Happy to Be Nappy” music video celebrates cultural identity and encourages others to embrace their natural beauty. The woke lyrics and soulful bluesy voice of singer Alana DaCosta was the foundation. We borrowed images from the Cultural celebration of the Miami Carnival, and incorporated a march featuring natural hair beauties holding art work for Black Lives Matter. However, the project didn’t feel complete to me. I had been looking at archival footage hoping to find something to inspire my next film and to tell a story that creates a bridge of understanding between communities and then I came across the James Baldwin interview. His words eloquently and succinctly summed up the entire music video project and put it into context. I knew immediately that this clip would make the “Happy to Be Nappy” video feel complete. It was my something old. It was golden.
Q: How much archival footage from Florida Moving Image Archives did you watch before you discovered the James Baldwin clip?
Cathleen Dean: I found a bevy of amazing video at the Archives that covered a vast variety of topics. I took a few days to just comb though the archives and I started collecting video clips that I felt we could craft into the story. I watched a lot of footage before I decided the James Baldwin clip was the right fit. The archives contain a treasure trove of interviews, news footage and documentary clips so it was entertaining and educational, and, in the end, I lost count but I’m sure it was in the hundreds. It is very easy to access the Florida Moving Image Archives website. You can do it from any computer anywhere.
Q: Another part of Miami Film Festival’s Wolfson Cinemaslam competition is providing funding for works-in-progress projects that plan to use archival material. In addition to receiving the $5,000 for “Happy to Be Nappy”, you also received a $2,500 cash grant for a new project you are developing called “Wade In the Water”. Could you tell us about “Wade In the Water” and how the cash prizes impacted both productions?
Cathleen Dean: “Wade in the Water” was born out of the footage I discovered in the archives. I learned so much about the protest that took place here in Florida to desegregate the beaches and public swimming pools from the archives that I was inspired to tell the story. The generous cash prizes helped to offset the cost of both productions. For “Wade in the Water”, the prize money will assist with paying for crucial travel costs to obtain more needed footage and, also, go towards post production expenses.
Click HERE to watch “Happy To Be Nappy”
Scenes from “Happy to Be Nappy”