Filmmaker Statement

BROTHER TO BROTHER is a project that I have been working on for the past six years. The idea for the script began when I started to think about different present-day experiences that I was having from a larger historical perspective. This led to my research into the Harlem Renaissance and Bruce Nugent at the Schomburg Library in Harlem. The more I learned about Nugent, the more fascinated I became.

Over the course of two years, I read a vast amount of material related to the Harlem Renaissance and completed several drafts of the script for BROTHER TO BROTHER. Some of the historical material included When Harlem Was In Vogue by David Levering Lewis, Eric Garber's essay "A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem" and Infants of The Spring by Wallace Thurman. This is Thurman's autobiographical novel about the subversive artistic community that thrived in the house known as "Niggeratti Manor" which was the creative center for literary figures such as Langston Hughes, Bruce Nugent and Zora Neale Hurston in the early stages of their careers.

I also conducted several interviews with Thomas Wirth, a scholar of African American literature, who gave me access to over 30 hours of taped interviews with Bruce Nugent and an anthology of Bruce's art and writing. A great deal of this rich historical material was dramatized and incorporated into the script. The film draws parallels between the early phase of Bruce's life and the contemporary struggles of Perry, who as a young, gay, African American artist has to grapple with similar issues of racism and homophobia in the present-day culture. The screenplay as it has been conceived is stylistically linked to the history of the African oral traditions and the methods and modes used to pass customs, traditions and experiences from one generation to the next. Another essential aspect of the script was that the form should mirror the complexity of Bruce Nugent’s mind and his innate ability to make connections between seemingly disparate ideas and events. The intimate personal relationships in the film also parallel larger social and cultural phenomena. The structure of the script is built around the gazes of Black men between each other in order to represent us (with all of our nuances and contradictions) as we really are.

BROTHER TO BROTHER is the first feature-length narrative drama that deals with the rich cultural time period known as the Harlem Renaissance. It presents the lives and experiences of well-known writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston who are read throughout the world and brings wider recognition to lesser-known but equally important figures such as Bruce Nugent and Wallace Thurman. The film strives to make links between these historical figures and the lives of young, contemporary African American artists as they begin to emerge and fulfill their full potential. While the film centers on African American artists of the Harlem Renaissance and the present day, I believe the quest for a meaningful identity and an original and truthful artistic voice is a universal theme that resonates on a global level. BROTHER TO BROTHER strives to acknowledge the diversity and complexity within the African American and gay and lesbian communities and to give voice to experiences that have been vastly underrepresented in cinema for far too long.

—Rodney Evans (2005)

Read an interview with Rodney Evans in the Filmmaker Q&A >>

Learn about the authors portrayed in the film >>

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