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The DIOP Circle V.8

Kwame Edwards

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

We've got Kwame Edwards with us this week. The 321nd customer and his Akira top is the perfect date to film premieres. And he's going to take us inside the world of documentary filmmaking.

Kwame, the floor is yours:

Though my foray into film isn't new, I have always done my best to avoid being the focal point of my work.

I was recently selected as the Washington D.C. Office of Cable, Television, Film, Media, and Entertainment July 2019 Filmmaker of the Month. The honor was definitely unexpected.

I got into film accidentally. Back in 2013, while walking the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County during the last semester of my masters degree program, I noticed a flyer advertising the Campus Movie Fest.

CMF travels around to different campuses, providing students the opportunity to borrow their equipment (camera, laptop loaded with the Adobe Creative software, mics, and lights) and create a five minute film over the course of one week.

Since I had wrapped up most of my thesis research, I figured "Why not try?". At the time, my Groove (Groove Phi Groove SFI) brother and eventual business partner had just finished his masters in digital media and photojournalism.

I asked him if it was something worth pursuing. He told me since they were providing the equipment, that I should definitely try it.

So I did. And while I liked my film and my friends found it mildly entertaining, YouTube took it down for a music copyright violation.

But that experience made me want to use film as a medium instead of academic writing. My goal then was to pursue a PhD program after spending time teaching English in China.

However, while in China, my goals really shifted. Instead of teaching English, I was a DJ, model, and taught Advanced Placement United States History at an international school.

I decided to make a documentary about my life in China, but after some time, I pivoted to making a project for Black people moving to China.

After interviewing over 40 people around the country, the project shifted from one singular documentary and turned it into a fifteen episode series called “Black in China,” which aired on YouTube.

After living in China, I was recruited to write a social studies curriculum for an international school in Qatar. While there, my interest in film pushed me to make a similar limited series called “Black in Doha”.

I figured I would travel the globe making films about other Black expatriate communities. But China came calling once more. My inbox on YouTube was overwhelmed with people who wanted to be featured on Black in China. I was completely surprised at just how much interest the series garnered.

The more I learned about film, the more I realized how desperately needed to upgrade my equipment. My first camera, a gift I am still grateful for, could not connect to an external microphone.

Luckily, I was able to run a successful KickStarter campaign to purchase enhanced equipment. I shot second season in 2015, and subsequently season 3 in 2017.

After returning to the States, I began working on my next project, much closer to home. My documentary “68” identifies and seeks to alleviate the disparate conditions various Black communities in D.C.; for example, how Plexiglas barriers in stores is a further symptom of racism against Black people in the city, many of whom are native.

"68" was selected and featured during Busboys and Poets Focus-In! Film Series: Cinema for a Conscious Community as the first film screened at recently opened Anacostia location back in April of 2019.

As soon as I had learned I was Filmmaker of the Month, I received the notification that my first feature length documentary "68" had been rejected by my hometown festival.

While pursuing my passion, I have worked jobs that I loved and hated and lived in circumstances which would be questionable for some. All the while, I have tried to maintain the understanding that all of my work is bigger than me.

One film festival rejection will not deter me from my goal of being a director whose work tells the stories of the African Diaspora.

- By Kwame Edwards


The DIOP Circle V.8

August 11th, 2019


Kwame Edwards

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

We've got Kwame Edwards with us this week. The 321st customer and his Akira top is the perfect date to film premieres. And he's going to take us inside the world of documentary filmmaking.

Kwame, the floor is yours:

Though my foray into film isn't new, I have always done my best to avoid being the focal point of my work.

I was recently selected as the Washington D.C. Office of Cable, Television, Film, Media, and Entertainment July 2019 Filmmaker of the Month. The honor was definitely unexpected.

I got into film accidentally. Back in 2013, while walking the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County during the last semester of my masters degree program, I noticed a flyer advertising the Campus Movie Fest. CMF travels around to different campuses, providing students the opportunity to borrow their equipment (camera, laptop loaded with the Adobe Creative software, mics, and lights) and create a five minute film over the course of one week.

Since I had wrapped up most of my thesis research, I figured "Why not try?". At the time, my Groove (Groove Phi Groove SFI) brother and eventual business partner had just finished his masters in digital media and photojournalism.

I asked him if it was something worth pursuing. He told me since they were providing the equipment, that I should definitely try it.

So I did. And while I liked my film and my friends found it mildly entertaining, YouTube took it down for a music copyright violation. But that experience made me want to use film as a medium instead of academic writing. My goal then was to pursue a PhD program after spending time teaching English in China.

However, while in China, my goals really shifted. Instead of teaching English, I was a DJ, model, and taught Advanced Placement United States History at an international school.

I decided to make a documentary about my life in China, but after some time, I pivoted to making a project for Black people moving to China.

After interviewing over 40 people around the country, the project shifted from one singular documentary and turned it into a fifteen episode series called “Black in China,” which aired on YouTube.

After living in China, I was recruited to write a social studies curriculum for an international school in Qatar. While there, my interest in film pushed me to make a similar limited series called “Black in Doha”.

I figured I would travel the globe making films about other Black expatriate communities. But China came calling once more. My inbox on YouTube was overwhelmed with people who wanted to be featured on Black in China. I was completely surprised at just how much interest the series garnered.

The more I learned about film, the more I realized how desperately needed to upgrade my equipment. My first camera, a gift I am still grateful for, could not connect to an external microphone.

Luckily, I was able to run a successful KickStarter campaign to purchase enhanced equipment. I shot second season in 2015, and subsequently season 3 in 2017.

After returning to the States, I began working on my next project, much closer to home. My documentary “68” identifies and seeks to alleviate the disparate conditions various Black communities in D.C.; for example, how Plexiglas barriers in stores is a further symptom of racism against Black people in the city, many of whom are native.

"68" was selected and featured during Busboys and Poets Focus-In! Film Series: Cinema for a Conscious Community as the first film screened at recently opened Anacostia location back in April of 2019.

As soon as I had learned I was Filmmaker of the Month, I received the notification that my first feature length documentary "68" had been rejected by my hometown festival.

While pursuing my passion, I have worked jobs that I loved and hated and lived in circumstances which would be questionable for some. All the while, I have tried to maintain the understanding that all of my work is bigger than me.

One film festival rejection will not deter me from my goal of being a director whose work tells the stories of the African Diaspora.


By Kwame Edwards

Follow Kwame at @kmatikc and @kmatikcmedia. And to stay updated on all of Kwame's latest work, visit http://www.KMATiKC.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.



Follow Kwame at @kmatikc and @kmatikcmedia. And to stay updated on all of Kwame's latest work, visit http://www.KMATiKC.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.