The 18th edition of the Harlem International Film Festival is coming and we recently received the lineup. Taking place at AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters from May 18th to the 28th, it will open up with Blow Up My Life and Paris Is In Harlem on May 18th, and the world premiere of the first two episodes from the next season of STARZ’ Run the World series, and the world premiere of Clayton P. Allis and Doug E. Doug’s In The Weeds on Friday, May 19th.
The 2023 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) announced it is teaming up with STARZ (2023 Luminary Partner) and unveiled films and events for its 18th edition – a hybrid event.
The in-person screenings will take place at AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters (2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd), with the Harlem International Film Festival and Columbia University Zuckerman Institute’s free-to-the-public screenings at The Forum (601 West 125th Street), and the Maysles Documentary Center (343 Malcolm X Blvd.). With a music theme running throughout the festival, this year’s film lineup will once again celebrate and showcase relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent with a special focus on Harlem artists. Hi’s lineup features 64 films, including 35 features (14 narrative, 21 documentary), 29 shorts (20 narrative, 9 documentary), 2 television episodes, and 2 VR projects. Other feature films making their world premieres are David Bell and Mecca Medina’s $ Broke Boi, Taylor Krauss’ BronX BandA: Arturo O’Farrill & The Bronx, and Patrick Heaphy’s The Sacred Place between Earth and Space.
Below, we highlight the Spotlight Feature, In The Weeds, premiering at the Harlem International Film Festival on May 19th at AMC Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem. At this premiere, Malik Yoba (New York Undercover, Empire, Cool Runnings) will host a Q&A panel with the filmmakers following the screening. Starring Doug E. Doug (Cool Runnings, Shark Tale, Cosby), with music by ESG, the seminal funk rock Bronx band, IN THE WEEDS is an ode to a city and lives rising back up.
About the film ~ IN THE WEEDS is a magical realism dramedy about a father searching for his daughter, who in turn is searching for love, while they are all caught up in the pandemic. The film is about the universal quest for love, and the power of a community to heal.
Shot and edited over 2021/22 in Harlem and across the city, IN THE WEEDS captures a moment in time of uncertainty and anxiety, but also great hope. The message is clear, with each chapter of the film opening with a focus on the healing power of a humble weed.
The film provides an insider’s look at the richness of New York’s diverse communities, featuring the city as it is seldom seen on screen–IN THE WEEDS criss-crosses bodegas and parks in Harlem before it travels up to take a breath at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, then heads across to Queens for a magical “trip” in a cemetery, reaching a climactic scene on the Brooklyn Bridge, where the cast finds themselves caught up in the middle of a real life political rally.
Three questions with team Clay and Doug ~
Q: Why does every chapter of the film open with a weed?
Clay: Every day, New Yorkers step on weeds, some with medicinal qualities, that are growing out of sidewalk cracks, without realizing the healing potential beneath their feet. Take a look the next time you are out. You’ll see dandelions, lavender, storksbill, maybe even magic mushrooms. Doug and I liked that idea… that the power of healing could literally be at your feet. Of course, the phrase “In the weeds” also means getting distracted and lost. IN THE WEEDS reminds us all to stop and look around. Wherever we are, the answers to many of our problems are probably within reach. We don’t need to search the world, just our community, to find solace.
Q: How did the film come about? Was it a response to the pandemic?
Clay: We shot it during the pandemic, but it’s not a movie about the pandemic. No one is suffering from COVID in the film. We just took our cameras out and started shooting without a script, mostly outdoors around Harlem at first. We would come back and edit, and see where it took us. As the story fell into place, we began scripting. Doug and I saw all the controversies, confusion and anger on the news, and we realized they were just distractions. We needed a shift in perspective.
Doug: We thought it was important to focus our camera on the existential impact on people’s lives within our community, on people we know and care for deeply. Because focusing on our common humanity and working on what is within our reach is constructive and uniquely gratifying. That is one of the reasons why this screening of IN THE WEEDS at the Harlem International Film Festival is so special. It’s like a homecoming for a movie about community.
Q: What does IN THE WEEDS reveal about New York?
Doug: In the history of cinema, there are some resonant, but narrow representations of New York. IN THE WEEDS is the New York of my childhood, and of my dreams. It is the way I have come to experience the city at its best. I call it the “human stew.” Just a bittersweet story featuring different kinds of people, who get wounded, and if they hang in there, healed.There is also a dash of silliness thrown in for good measure, because everyone needs a laugh, especially in the most dire of times.
Clay: Above all, New York is a community like any other across the country. At its heart, New York is about the people. We are a diverse “human stew,” as Doug puts it. The flavors don’t always get along, but it’s always interesting, and we will be fine if we stick together.
Doug E. Doug has established himself as a writer, producer, director, and actor with a flair for comedy and drama. He began as a stand-up comic at 17. He started in television, hosting and writing a syndicated late-night program called The New Music Report. Doug is well-known to audiences worldwide for his role in the feature film Cool Runnings. Doug starred in the ABC series Where I Live, in which he served as co-producer, and spent four seasons as Griffin in the series Cosby. His directorial debut was the feature film Citizen James which aired on Starz Movies. His first novel The Fall of 87 is available on Amazon. Doug has appeared on Sesame Street, Touched by An Angel, Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, Conviction, Blue Bloods, Shark Tale and was seen recurring on the FX series Justified, and Brown Nation, streaming on Netflix.
Clayton Allis is an award-winning filmmaker and owner of The Media Horde, a New York City-based production studio that specializes in digital content and post production. Clay’s first feature Falling aired on Netflix, and was awarded Best Feature at the Temecula film festival and the DNA festival, Best of New York at the Queens festival, the Golden Cine in Mumbai, and the Viewer’s choice at Cinequest. His short films In the Future Love Will Also and What the F*** Doug E. Doug took top spots at The Brooklyn Film Festival and Williamsburg Film Festival respectively, while an early short :/RUN started a conversation about surveillance that made the news in the New York Times, New York Post, and other media. Clay grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands and lives in Harlem.