Every morning, I get a very disturbing update on my Chicago Tribune app -- telling me how many people have been shot overnight in Chicago: "8 SHOT OVERNIGHT.....3 SHOT DEAD...7 HURT ON SOUTH AND WEST SIDES."
It is really distressing. There is a prevailing Wild, Wild West mentality in many urban areas. What happens to those kids who long to live normal lives -- just getting to school and making it through another day?
LIFE, LOVE, SOUL are words that may give hope to meaningless events in life and the title of a new movie by an intrepid writer and filmmaker named Noel Calloway.
Noel's journey from a tumultuous Harlem childhood to Clark Atlanta University and then back to New York to write screenplays, while also working at a career in youth services, made me take notice of this very impressive man. His bio is heart-stopping:
Seeing each of his parents incarcerated, spending time in the foster care system and dealing with his own mother's untimely death.
Winner of the "Audience Award" at the 2011 Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City, LIFE, LOVE, SOUL was screened in Chicago last month at The Wit Hotel. I was able to chat with Noel and three of his dedicated cast members.
The following synopsis may sound familiar -- however, the vision on film is all Noel Calloway's: The coming-of-age story of Roosevelt Jackson, (played by an extremely charismatic Robbie Tate-Brickle), a seventeen-year-old honor student coping with the sudden death of his mother, his difficult relationship with his previously estranged father and his own journey to manhood.
How many kids even get a chance to be nurtured into manhood? It is so bloody sad to me to see these lost souls, desperate for guidance, support and validation -- trying to figure out their way in life.
Listening to the deeply resonant voice of actor Jamie Hector ("The Wire," "CSI Miami), portraying the role of a caring teacher, and I didn't doubt his commitment to this movie. In his "real life," Jamie has also founded an organization in Brooklyn called Moving Mountains, Inc. His focus is on serving inner city youth by "developing and expanding their creative opportunities."
Jamie embodies the film's themes of finding guiding forces and true mentors in life, who will make a difference in a young person's world.
Chad Coleman, who plays the estranged father (Earl Grant), is a commanding presence and veteran actor of stage and screen, having had roles in "The Wire," "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" and "The Green Hornet."
Robbie Tate-Brickle is someone to watch. Smart, charming, ready with a warm smile and eager to share his passion for performing. He exuded that "I can do anything, and the world's my oyster" kind of energy. It's an uplifting thing to see, especially when there are so many barriers to artistic success.
As for Writer/Director Noel Calloway, we chatted as he had his beautiful little girl sitting on his lap -- angelic and adorable. I said, "Do you know you have a movie star here?" In keeping with a father's hope to "establish a new legacy for my children and their children," he replied: "How about a writer?"
In this era of instant reality show fame, it was a refreshing response. Noel Calloway recognizes the importance of nurturing one's voice, being able to tell a story with depth -- and infuse it with LIFE, LOVE, SOUL.