Passing
 
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Coffee Bluff Pictures presents

The Highly Anticipated Screen Adaptation of the Critically Acclaimed Novel PASSING


 

the film

Logline

Two childhood friends reconnect during the Harlem Renaissance with new adult identities and play a deadly game of passing for white women in high society New York.
 

Synopsis

Inspired by the novel by Nella Larsen.
Passing is a historical fiction-suspense thriller about Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, two African-American childhood friends who reunite as adults during the Harlem Renaissance. Clare has married and mothered a child with John Bellew, a white, wealthy, and virulent racist, who has no idea that Clare is black. Irene, on the other hand, has married a prominent African-American physician, Brian Redfield, has two boys, and lives at the center of black high society. With childhood nostalgia getting the better of them, the act of passing in 1920s New York becomes a deadly game.
 

GENRES

Historical drama, thriller
 

THEMES

Identity politics, racism, displacement, gender equity

 

 

 
 
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Director's statement

 

America is in an identity crisis. Our society systemically values one color over another. Color blindness is not an option and white privilege must be examined. When looking for the most iconic moments and figures pushing the boundaries of race and identity in America, you land in 1920s Harlem. In Nella Larsen’s acclaimed novel Passing, Irene and Clare have a hauntingly modern story — and their story isn’t behind us as Americans. By bringing the lives of these two women to the big screen, we inject our audience at the color line, straddling the threshold of identity politics.

The gravitational pull of America’s most famous neighborhood during its most famous era has been, and will always be, a part of the cultural zeitgeist. This is not just about art. How many times do you hear people reciting a line from Langston Hughes? How many times do we see paintings by Romare Bearden taken out of context? How many times do we hear songs that are rooted in the foundations of jazz and blues? These artists were writing-painting-singing the stories of millions of African Americans trapped by an oppressive system. Their poems-paintings-songs were translating the faces and voices of real people, documenting real lives and anticipating real futures.

We romanticize the Harlem Renaissance. We think about the jazz, the art. We need to understand the role of blackness. And, as W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, ‘But what of black women?’ Passing serves as a humanized, visual, entertainment vehicle to unpack this era as a seminal point in the fight for equality across race, class, and gender.

The role of film in social engagement is undeniable. We more fully understood slavery through Roots and the Holocaust through Schindler’s List. Through Passing we aim to produce a critically acclaimed film of historical import while amplifying market reach to increasingly minority dominated audiences; harnessing the power of women and minorities in film, on both sides of the camera; examining white privilege and creating a conversation around identity politics and race in America; and driving advocacy around identity, racism, women’s voices, and displacement. Clare and Irene represent two Muslim women who want to change their names, their clothes; two Mexican women who don’t want to be migrant workers; two transwomen who would like to use the restroom. We need to know these two women, Clare and Irene, and why they are relevant to America today.

 
 
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our team

 

Meeting of the minds

Deborah Riley Draper and Jennifer Galvin met at the 2016 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, where both women screened feature films that they directed-produced-wrote-shot. They recognized one another as kindred spirits right away. While their media projects have explored a wide range of topics over the years, they find a strong union in the themes that drive them the most as storytellers: justice, equity, health, women’s voices, and underrepresented characters. For Deborah and Jennifer, it’s about content with intent: telling stories that have the power to change the story. Two months after meeting in Arkansas, they were working together between New York and Atlanta, storyboarding, writing, and planning for their new productions spanning non-fiction and fiction. Together they bridge the art and science of filmmaking with strategic marketing experience to create impactful entertainment.

 Filmmakers Deborah Riley Draper and Jennifer Galvin. Photo: Petra Richterova.

Filmmakers Deborah Riley Draper and Jennifer Galvin. Photo: Petra Richterova.

Deborah Riley Draper
Director

Deborah seeks to tell the full range of African-American stories – past, present and future. An advertising agency executive by trade, Deborah founded Coffee Bluff Pictures, an Atlanta-based independent film venture. At Coffee Bluff Pictures, Deborah develops, produces and distributes compelling stories to satiate the African American appetite for film. Her critically acclaimed feature documentary Olympic Pride, American Prejudice qualified for an Oscar and screened at the White House for President Obama with the families of the 1936 US Olympic Team. In museums and on college campuses across the country, her film is used as a powerful tool for social justice and education. Deborah received a 2017 NAACP Image Award nomination, in recognition for the film's role in promoting social justice through creative endeavors, and Variety Magazine chose her for 2016’s Top 10 Documakers to watch. For more about Deborah, visit coffeebluffpictures.com.
 

Jennifer Galvin
Producer

Jennifer runs reelblue, LLC – an independent film production and media company based in New York. A public health scientist by training and a storyteller by nature, her motivations remain fueled by the maxim protect the vulnerable. Commercial to indie, documentary to fiction, moving image to print – for Jennifer it all starts with a great story when it comes to creating transportive, immersive media. Recent honors include being named to GOOD Magazine's GOOD 100, representing the vanguard of artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and innovators from over 35 countries making creative impact. Her latest feature documentary The Memory of Fish earned a rare spot on 'The Definitive List of River Movies' and while a human-centered story, it was a Panda Award nominee–the highest accolade in the wildlife film and TV industry, dubbed the ‘Green Oscars’. More about Jennifer at reelblue.net and jengalvin.com.

 
 
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about nella larsen

As featured in the New York Times obituary series 'Overlooked'
Nella Larsen  1891-1964
A Harlem Renaissance-era writer whose heritage informed her modernist take on the topic of race.
By BONNIE WERTHEIM

When Nella Larsen died, in 1964, she left little behind: a ground-floor apartment, two published novels, some short stories, a few letters. She was childless, divorced and estranged from her half sister, who, in some accounts, upon learning she was to inherit $35,000 of Larsen’s savings, denied knowing the writer existed.

It was a fitting end for a woman whose entire life had been a story of swift erasure.

Larsen’s immigrant parents — Mary Hanson, from Denmark, and Peter Walker, from the Danish West Indies — had settled in a mostly white, working-class neighborhood in Chicago, a city that was rapidly growing and segregating by the time Larsen was born on April 13, 1891.

Two years later, Walker disappeared, leaving Hanson alone with the couple’s young daughter. In his absence, Hanson married a fellow Dane, Peter Larsen, with whom she had another daughter, Anna.

By all appearances, the family was white. But Nella Larsen was different, something that would come to inspire her fiction — celebrated during the Harlem Renaissance, forgotten by midcentury and rediscovered to be read today in American literature and black studies courses. READ MORE


 

 
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