Bronx resident receives Emmy nod for film, ‘A Mother’s Rite’

Courtney Celeste Spears, in "A Mothers' Rite," a film by Jeremy McQueen, which was nominated for an Emmy.
photo by Matthew Murphy

A Bronx resident, who focuses on bringing artistic works to communities that are deserving of social justice and educational reform, recently received an Emmy nod for a film.

Jeremy McQueen, 33, of Grand Concourse, grew up in California, but has spent the past 15 years in New York. Theater and ballet have been his entire life.

In conjunction with his ballet collaborative The Black Iris Project, McQueen developed “A Mother’s Rite,” a flick about how mothers deal with losing children to police brutality.

“A Mother’s Rite” premiered in August 2018 at Marcus Garvey Park, but in an effort to reach more people, McQueen collaborated with award-winning cinematographer Colton Williams to create a silver screen adaptation of the ballet, which was filmed in Langston Hughes’ historic home.

He was on cloud nine upon receiving the news.

“As soon as I heard it [Emmy nod] I just started bursting out in tears,” he recalled. “I’m so thrilled that my first film got an Emmy nomination.”

“A Mother’s Rite” will air on CUNY-TV on Mother’s Day, May 10, at 1 p.m. It will also be available for screening online at vimeo.com/blackirisproject/amr.

The fictional contemporary ballet was created at and commissioned by The Bronx Museum of the Arts. Throughout McQueen’s residency he researched the personal accounts of many black mothers throughout history who have lost their children to police brutality or racially based violence, and its impact on communities of color.

 

This spawned “Letters of Love,” which solicits letters from the community, which are addressed to women who have lost their children to police or state violence. Teachers have been virtually assigning their students to screen the film and take part in “Letters of Love.” Next week he will be speaking to the kids about this.

“A big part of this is these mothers have become huge champions for their children,” he explained. “In an effort to be sensitive to these mothers, I tried to find mothers that already had personal accounts.”

In partnership with CUNY-TV and BronxNet television stations, the film has been broadcast numerous times over the past two years throughout New York City, as well as select screenings online around the country.

He told the Bronx Times that often these moms talk about the plight of their deceased children, but rarely express how they are feeling. He discovered that many feel suicidal and isolated.

“My biggest motivation was to address mental health in communities of color,” he said.

He recalled that growing up, he and his mom Mary were close and would dance together, which was incorporated in the ballet.  McQueen said she cries every time she sees the film.

Part of the motivation for making it was also how she dealt with the grief of his dad passing away in 2016.

“A lot of the reasons why it is such a relevant piece is I’ve had to draw inspiration from there and put it into the piece,” he said. “I wanted the community to be involved and have a voice.”

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