*”Give Me Liberty” is the movie America didn’t know it needed. Director and Writer, Kirill Mikhanovsky & co-writer Alice Austen have created a colorful film that sheds light on characters and actors with disabilities while beautifully harmonizing comedy with eye-opening & transparent scenes.
The film takes place in Milwaukee, America’s most segregated city. After a police shooting in a black neighborhood, organized protests are echoed throughout the metropolis. Hmm…sound familiar?
The protests cause several road blockages, leaving medical transport driver Vic (played by Chris Galust) with a challenge. Attempting to pick up his scheduled clients, Vic’s route takes an unusual turn as he packs his grandfather, funeral-goers, and his scheduled clients all in one van toward their destination.
Along the ride, we also meet Tracy, a young black woman with ALS, played by Lauren “Lolo” Spencer. Lauren has received numerous rave reviews for her incredible performance. RogerEbert.com has Lauren on the list of Top Ten Best performances at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Made with a low budget and non-professional local cast, director and writer, Kirill Mikhanovsky used his own past real-life experience as a medical transporter to spark the idea of his second feature film. It premiered and opened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival & the 2019 Cannes Film Festival where it was received with an over 10-minute ovation.
EURweb associate Jaimi Gray caught up with Mikhanovsky, Austen, and Spencer, the lead sensation, to talk about the film’s success.
Why was Milwaukee, one of the most segregated cities in America, the choice for the film’s location?
Kirill Mikhanovsky: Milwaukee has incredible character and we used the transport vehicle as a plot device to connect the socially disconnected parts of society and bring people together who normally don’t talk to each other.
Alice Austen: America, in this time, must come together–it’s essential. The van brings people who are both alike and different, and permits them to come together and celebrate their differences…sometimes because of their differences,
and that’s a beautiful thing.
You’ve expressed how the film represents the melting pot of America, and the resilience of the American Dream. How did the title “Give Me Liberty” come about?
Alice Austen: We saw a man wearing a t-shirt of the Statue of Liberty blindfolded, and it said “give me liberty or give me death” , and we knew immediately that was our title.
Kirill Mikhanovsky:It felt really incredibly right–immediately to us. Ultimately, no matter what our characters do in the film, it’s all about the extent to which they want to be free.
Kirill Mikhanovsky and Alice Austen at the ‘Give Me Liberty’ premiere in Beverly Hills
It’s refreshing to see a cast with people of the disabled community, which you don’t see often. How important was casting to you for this film?
Alice Austen: Our lead actress is a young black woman with a disability [ALS]. We cast her because she’s brilliant, and it would have been a terrible disservice to the individuals with disabilities who appear in the film to cast an actress who didn’t have a disability.
Lolo, you have been getting rave reviews for your performance as Tracy. What initially made you want to take on this role?
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer: The story was just incredible–the story of humanity. What really, really drew me was Tracy’s character. Although her character has a disability, it was not focused on her disability.
All the stuff I do outside of my YouTube channel “Sitting Pretty” and modeling for many different brands, the goal is always representation & authenticity. I felt like the script really represented that. When I found out that they were not going to cast anybody unless they were authentically a black woman who was a wheelchair user as Tracy, that’s what had me sold.
What did playing the role of Tracy teach you about yourself?
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer: Playing Tracy was absolutely incredible! She is so much like who I was when I was younger in my mid to early 20s. I was really intrigued to go back into that space of who I once was and how I would’ve responded in the same kinds of situations. Playing Tracy was really great and I hope people can really resonate with her.
I love how your character showcases her natural hair because you don’t always see that. How did you work with writers and directors to authentically portray Tracy in that light?
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer: Yes! That was intentional! Alice and Kiril were so open to what I had to say. Tracy’s character doesn’t take sh-t from anyone. I told them, “let’s just be mindful that Tracy doesn’t come off as ‘the angry black woman’ in this film because that is a terrible stigma, and that’s how we’re represented in so many ways and films, and we did not want that to happen. When I expressed that concern, they were definitely on it. We’re all so tight as a unit today.
Why should people go see “Give Me Liberty”?
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer: It’s a great story about human connection and people coming together from all of these different backgrounds, different races, different ages, and different abilities. You get to see all of these groups of people that you would never expect to come together in this medical transport van, and share those experiences all in one day. We need more films that star and lead with a character with a disability. I feel like disability is the next wave, and it’s going to be a great look.
Nona Hendryx to Host Global Virtual Event with Special Guest Appearance by Angela Davis
*Singer, songwriter, and activist Nona Hendryx in conjunction with Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X., have partnered with the international feminist group JASS (Just Associates) to present a “Musical Meditation and Celebration of Radical Healing” on Friday, August 14, 2020. This global, multi-artist virtual online event is designed to share and affirm our connections and power in a time of uprising and crisis through music, dance, poetry, and guided meditations. Featuring female performing entities from around the world, including noted activist, academic, and author Angela Davis, this one-of-a-kind event will be live-streamed on the StreamYard platform beginning at 4:00 p.m. EST/1:00 p.m. PST/2:00 MT/7:00 p.m. UCT.
JASS was founded in 2003 by activists, organizers, popular educators, and scholars from five continents, including Lisa VeneKlasen, who recently stepped down as Executive Director, and Shereen Essof, the current Executive Director, who are connected by their commitment to grassroots feminist organizing and justice through shared political struggles from Central America to Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the Philippines.
Hendryx – a former member of Grammy Hall of Fame trio LaBelle – and VeneKlasen have long wanted to collaborate politically on an event spotlighting women’s often invisible role in the ongoing fight to address unfinished struggles of our liberation – violence, inequality, racism, discrimination, stigma, and more. Initially planning to partner to celebrate Women’s History Month in March, then Black Music Month in June, they postponed plans when the country was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as by the global outcry for racial and social justice. With numerous artists and organizations taking to online platforms for performances and fundraisers, Hendryx and VeneKlasen decided that August was a stronger opportunity for the two women-focused entities to address both the hopeful possibilities and trauma and pain of these times.
“By radical healing, we’re acknowledging the power of music to lift our spirits and connect us across all our differences,” says Hendryx. “We recognize that we can’t build and sustain strong movements for the long haul with broken people who bear the brunt of crises and violence. We need moments of shared joy and connections as much as information and strategy.” Adding that women’s role at the forefront of numerous movements has been powerful and consistent, she also notes, “some of the most amazing music ever created has been birthed from struggle.”
Shereen Essof, JASS Executive Director, adds, “In the face of crises and violence, feminist organizers believe that our collective healing is vital to building strong, agile movements for the future. Songs, music, dancing, and poetry are part of a long tradition of activism and communities organizing for justice globally. We are incredibly excited to co-create this moment of radical healing with these extraordinary artists.”
Hendryx will perform with New York-based collective Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X. (Quantum, Unique, Evolving, Essence of Nubian Sistas), a musical meditation on the affirmation of healing traumas of the past and present while answering questions and exploring ways to move forward. First presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in September 2019 with special guests Divinity Roxx, Be Steadwell, Liza Jessie Peterson, the group will be joined by Sophia Ramos for the August 14th performance. Q.U.E.E.N.X. is a multi-generational, multi-disciplinary blending of music, spoken word, hip-hop, funk, rock, and avant-garde. The group has been hailed for its unique performances that embrace a broad range of audiences, particularly the African American, Latinx, Indigenous Natives, and LGBTQI communities.
Also joining Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X. for this special presentation in radical healing will be noted women artists from around the globe, including South African actress and poet Lebo Mashile; indigenous Guatemalan singer Sara Carruchich; Zimbabwean singer and Mbira player, Hope Masike; and Filipina theater actress and singer Monique Wilson.
Evelyn Lozada Gets Emotional Recalling Ochocinco Abuse [VIDEO]
*Evelyn Lozada has responded to the recent comments her ex-husband, former NFL star Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, made about his 2012 domestic violence case.
“I lost my temper for once in life for 3 seconds & it cost me a lifetimes worth of work,” he tweeted without mentioning the incident. “I got it all back plus some after getting a 2nd chance & NOTHING will ever get me out of that happy space again.”
As reported by thejasminebrand.com, Johnson was arrested and charged with domestic battery in 2012 following an altercation with Lozada. She filed for divorce days after.
He pleaded no contest and struck a plea deal and served a year-long probation sentence.
Johnson was also dropped by the Miami Dolphins after his arrest. He and Evelyn also filmed a VH1 realty show that never aired.
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@EvelynLozada Thank u for sharing the TRUTH. I remember when I met up with you & Chad in SoBe for breakfast. The tone that Chad spoke to you made me so uncomfortable. I called you later that day asking if you were okay. Now I know you weren’t. Luv u my friend. Stay strong. ❤️??
— frederick johnson (@fjohnsonphoto) July 16, 2020
The “Basketball Wives” star released a tearful video Thursday in response to Johnson’s tweet.
She captioned the 5 minute clip: “I’m sorry to my kids, my family & friends, my fellow cast-members, their kids & family, the viewers & anyone else I hurt or affected with my actions. I hope & pray my message is received and that this video makes sense. I’m sorry for being so upset but this is HEAVY on my heart. #ILoveAllOfYou”.
In the video Lozada makes clear that Ochocinco was abusive on more than one occasion.
Hear/watch her tell it via the YouTube clip above.
Johnson’s spoke about his troubled past after social media users asked his advice on how to stay positive.
“What’s the secret? How do you stay so positive? Was it therapy? Not being funny…really asking for myself,” wrote one fan.
Evelyn and Chad were married for only 41 days before she filed for divorce after they had a violent brawl.
Stephen A. Smith Says NBA Players Will ‘Struggle’ with Sexual Frustration in Orlando / WATCH
*As the NBA prepares for the conclusion of the season in Orlando, Florida, Stephen A. Smith thinks the biggest challenge players will face in the city is the lack of sex due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Do we really think that the ‘recreational activities’ that these guys are accustomed to are going to be compromised for three months?” said Smith on Tuesday’s edition of First Take, per 97 The Game.
The NBA recently shared a photo of courts for the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic being set up inside the bubble at Disney World, offering a first look at team practice rooms being set up in hotels.
As noted by CBS News, ” as teams start traveling to Orlando next week, we should start getting more information about how everything in the bubble is going to look,” the outlet writes. Adding, “Teams will practice at staggered times in order to promote social distancing and keep everyone healthy. “
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Stephen A Smith on NBA players breaking the Disney Bubble because they’re going to be sexually frustrated and need to go out for “recreational activities”… pic.twitter.com/trgMrAUeAl
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 30, 2020
Smith added, “Forget three months. They’re gonna’ struggle with three weeks. Why you think they wanted Vegas?” asked Smith.
Hear him tell it via the Twitter video above.
Meanwhile, Jesse Pantuosco of 97 The Game writes, “the NBA has made its Orlando accommodations as player-friendly as possible with table tennis, on-site barbers, movie-viewing areas and other entertainment options. But even with all those amenities at their disposal, Smith predicts players will leave the premises to fulfill their sexual appetites.”
“They’re gonna’ violate the bubble. That’s what I’m telling you,” Smith insisted. “Somebody’s gotta’ say it.”
Meanwhile, when asked what he would like to see when the league restarts in Florida, Lakers player representative Danny Green told ESPN. “We got to continue to speak up, continue to figure out ways to affect change as a group,” said Green. “We’ll be competing against each other and focusing on winning, but we still need to focus on what’s the bigger picture.”
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