The Untold Story Of A Queer Woman Of Color: Q&A With Filmmaker JD Walker
Filmmaker, JD Walker is raising funds (and awareness) for a film project in the pre-production stage — a coming out story, new to Hollywood. And that’s a story about a queer woman of color, Alyssa (Margaret Kemp, Children of God ) and how she not only comes out, but transitions and grows after her divorce and secret life with another woman. A story told through the lenses of her daughter, the film will focus on the impact of the divorce on the child, and how the mother and daughter come to terms with each other’s choices.
Walker, a black feminist writer who identifies with the queer community, won the 2013 Sundance Pitching Contest and raised more than her $25,000 goal for the film through a Kickstarter campaign. But other than traditional Hollywood struggling to take notice, Walker says some people don’t want to see another film tackling coming out.
“A lot of people complained that they don’t want to see or read about or hear another coming out story particularly in film. But every time we witness another teen suicide, another teen who is being bullied just because who they are, we know there is still work to be done,” Walker said. “Personally, I don’t think that the idea of telling another story about how homophobia impacts subjects or people of color… I don’t think that the story can ever get old. It’s important it’s told in a very unique way.”
Walker talks about the status of her upcoming film and about why stories reflecting the intersection 0f homophobia, racism, sexism and classism need to be told in an exclusive interview with MadameNoire’s Deron Dalton:
MN: What inspired you to write and make The Postwoman?
JD Walker: “I have always been interested, both as a professor and black woman, in exploring black women’s quadruple oppression on screen and in literature and in writing. And that’s black women’s oppression by their gender, their race, their class and their sexuality. And I noticed over the years — my background is as a journalist and a theatre major — that a lot of images I saw in traditional Hollywood didn’t reflect my reality, my cultural reality or even just my experiences as a woman of color. I really wanted to help humanize queer women of color on screen and to give more black women characters voice.”
“…When we look at traditional Hollywood cinema from as early as D.W. Griffith and Thomas Edison, we see three-different stereotypes of black women in cinema. And that is the black woman as mammy, the black woman as sapphire and the black woman as matriarch. Doing this film [is] a way for me to address social justice issues and to address homophobia and the importance of eradicating homophobia, racism, classism and sexism not only in the world, but specifically the African-American community.”
MN: How did you come up with the name and the story The Postwoman?
Walker: “I originally did a short film for the queer women of color film festival. I was offered an opportunity to take a free class for women filmmakers. It was originally a comedy. It was a short about a woman sitting on her balcony, and she sees this mysterious postal carrier woman walk by her. And it’s partly autobiographical because one afternoon in the summer, I was sitting on my balcony and I noticed a female postal worker delivering the mail quietly and her hat was tilted down low… and I couldn’t see her eyes. But then I started thinking because I’m writer about what’s her story. That’s how I got the title The Postwoman, but I’m not really fond of the title for a feature film so the title may change. The short screened at over 20 black film festivals [a combination of black pride and LGBT film festivals] between 2009 and 2011. The story just grew by word of mouth and that’s what really inspired me to begin screenwriting as a profession.”
MN: Usually the media representation of the LGBT community are images of white men, younger white men or just white men in general, do you feel there are enough coming out stories for people of color on film or on TV?
Walker: “I don’t think there are enough coming stories for people of color on TV or film, even GLAAD has documented that most of the scripted TV LGBT characters are white males. If you look at… any kind of LGBT distribution you’ll see that the stories are about white males mostly. Our stories don’t get told. I think it’s important we hear a multiplicity of voices. Not just the coming out experience, but what happens after that, how do people survive and grow in life. There are so many great stories that independent black filmmakers produce that don’t make it to the mainstream or that people never see. And for me that’s painful.”
MN: What issues are highlighted in this film that interlink with real-life LGBT issues?
Walker: “First and foremost, we see the intersection of gender, race, class and sexuality in this film. I think that a lot of the films I’ve witnessed… we haven’t really seen how quadruple oppression can effect a subject or a character. Most of the films we seen about LGBT individuals are comedies featuring white males.”
MN: “Romantic comedies? I’ve written about it… for the Huffington Post… that gay formulaic comedy. You see an average-looking white guy hooking up with a really handsome-looking white guy and all their trials and tribulations in dating each other. That’s basically that formula.”
Walker: Laughs. “Somehow we can’t get around that. We have to get around that.”
MN: “I’m not going to lie to you. I do watch them all.” Laughs.
Walker: “I do too. I like them… and that’s all we have, but doesn’t mean we can’t demand more from our writers and to demand that they dig deeper and look at the realities of race, class and gender. I’m just trying to help to humanize black women characters on screen and to give more black women/actresses voices and depth. That’s the reason why I really decided to make this a dramatic feature film.”