American Masters: what it feels like to be free, interview with Mehret Mandefro

“We all know a lot about their music, culture, fashion and movies. But I hadn’t realized how revolutionary they really were in terms of their career ”, explains Dr Mehret Mandefro, who is nominated for an Emmy for the best documentary or documentary series for the documentary “American Masters” “How it feels to be free”; she produced it with Michael kantor, Lacey schwartz delgado, Elliott Halpern, Elisabeth Trojian, Julie Bags and Grammy winner Alicia Keys. From the book of the same name by Ruth feldstein, the film chronicles the art and activism of Lena Horne, Nina simone, Pam grier, Lincoln Abbey, Diahann Carroll and Cicely tyson. Watch our exclusive video interview with Mandefro above.

The six artists featured in the film represent the advancements made by black women in media throughout the 20th century. But to innovate, they had to face head-on the structural and political barriers black women faced in business and in society at large. They became stars “long before the same issues we talked about. So in many ways we saw this movie as almost like the prehistory, if you will, of what’s going on around representation and genre in the entertainment industry now.

And although “it is always more difficult for us to get money for our stories”, Mandefro sees among the current black creators “a small but powerful tribe of people who really build the road and walk on it at the same time. But I think it’s incumbent on all of us to get the job done and keep trying to figure out how this moment translates into real change that lasts. She herself did this work; in addition to producing films like “How It’s To Be Free”, she founded the American production company Truth Aid Media and the Ethiopian company A51 Pictures, opening doors that were closed to many who did. preceded. “Whenever I get tired I really think about the young children who are coming in and that makes me very optimistic about the future.”

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