Megan Carvell Davis
Hardwood became a reality for me in 2000 when I read Hubert's first funding proposal. It was seven oversized pages, each with a black and white photo or two and a few lines written beneath, describing the film. Hubert's proposal was simple, elegant and poignant, so reflective of his completed film. All through the process of making "Hardwood," Hubert kept me involved. He asked me for feedback on what he wrote, got me to set up shoots in Vancouver and Chicago and research archival footage, and then he sent me rough cuts as he went through the process of editing "Hardwood." As a retired documentary filmmaker, I was deeply honored my son asked me to work on his first film.
Participating in Hardwood on a personal level was also rewarding. Answering Hubert's questions as he delved into our past allowed me to go where I hadn't been in a very long time — to the beginning of my relationship with his father, when I was so very young. A time filled with joy and pain. I wanted Hubert to know why I made the decisions I did in my life and his sensitive face showed he understood, and that comforted me. It is deeply gratifying now to witness how Hubert's touching and honest story of our family is inspiring others to re-examine their family's relationships.
I'm often asked how I feel about my life being exposed in Hardwood. My life has always been an open book. Friends and family met Mel in Vancouver in the 60s. They knew I visited him on the road through the years. And everyone knew Mel was married when I was pregnant with Hubert. Mel asked me to have his child and I said yes. It wasn't an easy decision to defend. My only regret was hurting Mary Etta. As the years passed I tried to talk myself out of my relationship with Mel, to no avail. Mel was my rock. One of the happiest days of my life was the day I married Mel, 25 years after I met him.
Mel is my steady companion and best friend now. I support him as he works with young people, teaching them about life through basketball. I visit family and friends. My passion is the natural world around me and I try to spend a few hours of each day just enjoying it. Any spare time is divided between working to save a small "nature" park in Vancouver and writing a book with Mary Etta exploring our parallel lives with Mel.
Mawuli Mel Davis
Hardwood began as an opportunity for me to support my brother Hubert in his dream of becoming a filmmaker. The "Hardwood Experience," as I have now begun to affectionately describe the process of participating in the making and showing of Hardwood, has been therapeutic and enlightening. As I contemplated organizing public showings of Hardwood in Atlanta, a close friend and mentor told me that "our people (Black) need this; if one person decides to reconnect with their family, then sharing your family's story will be worth it." He was right!
As a human and civil rights activist for over a decade I have never experienced more "intimate public discussions" than the ones that Hubert and I engaged in after we premiered Hardwood in Atlanta community settings. Sons, mothers, fathers and daughters openly cried in describing how they "needed this" because now they can talk about what has happened in their own families. There is a universal message that Hardwood offers to families of all races. But in a time when 70 percent of African-American children are born out of wedlock, and are twice as likely as white children to experience divorce, Hardwood can become a powerful tool in the process of reconnecting and repairing our communities, family by family.
As for me, I recently celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary with my wife, Jana, and our two sons Kobie (7) and Khari (5) by renewing our vows on a cruise with family and friends. We now live in Atlanta, Georgia, where I have my own law practice, Mawuli Davis & Associates. I am currently the co-chair of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA) and of the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division's Minorities in the Profession Committee. I have been a youth basketball coach for both of my sons' basketball teams for the last four years. I am looking forward to continuing to facilitate community discussions about the "Hardwood Experience" with the hope that every family will find the courage to tell their story, and as Hubert states in Hardwood, "forever change the pattern" of their lives.
Mawuli Mel Davis can be contacted by visiting www.mawulidavis.com.
Mary Etta Davis
Hardwood was presented to me as a request to participate in a project that would help bring closure to our family regarding the past. I was reluctant at first, not eager to relive the events that caused me so much pain and anguish, but I agreed after much urging from my son, Mawuli. I hoped that this would finally put the matter to rest.
I found that, while talking about the events that happened 20 years ago, I was still connected to the past by the present and the future. Reliving those years has brought me to an understanding of a history that began long before my failed marriage. In telling the story, I was forced to relive it, reexamine it and experience it from a different perspective. Many things I did not know were revealed and the origin of certain behaviors were made understandable.
If, by telling my story and that of my family — and I mean my extended family although it's not the "traditional" family — perhaps other families can face their past and move ahead to the future.
I am now a retired public school teacher and Catholic school principal, living a life filled with children, grandchildren, volunteerism, church and other activities. I have no regrets about the past, because if it had been any different, I would not be who I am today and I would not have my son and grandchildren... my family.
Since the film's premiere at Hot Docs 2004, Hardwood has garnered multiple awards and international critical acclaim. The film has screened at over 20 films festivals throughout Canada and the US.
Awards for Hardwood include Best Documentary at the World Wide Short Film Festival, Best Short Documentary at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Jury's Choice award at the Black Maria Film + Video Festival and four awards at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival (including a craft award for Best (Non-Dramatic) Direction and the coveted Golden Sheaf of Excellence Award for the top film of 2004). "Hardwood" was also part of last year's official selection at the InFact Film Series in Los Angeles.
Obviously, the highlight of the year was when Hardwood was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Documentary Short Subject. The best part of the experience was being able to share it with my family, who joined my wife Kelly and me on the red carpet. I think the honor of being nominated was very validating for my family in having the courage to tell our story. The whole experience has brought me closer to my family and has given me a better insight into them as people. Making Hardwood has taught me so much about myself and has been the most rewarding professional experience of my life.
I am currently living in Toronto with my wife. I have recently completed production on my second short film, a drama called Aruba, under the banner of my production company, Shine. I also have a documentary in development called The Invisible City about racial profiling.