SADÈ CLACKEN JOSEPH’S MEDIEVAL FILM, KNIGHT, IS THE FAIRYTALE STORY WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR.
February 25, 2021
Director, Sadè Clacken Joseph’s latest short film “Knight” takes on a new hilarious spin and reimagines the old-age fairy tale narrative. The comedy set in medieval times follows the story of a young Princess, played by Sigin Ojulu, whose father is hosting a tournament in the kingdom to find a worthy suitor to marry his daughter. During the tournament, we watch as the contenders battle it out with humorous results. The King, played by the Grammy award-winning artist Robert Glasper, is as eccentric as his subjects. Even though Knight has a six-minute running time, Joseph manages to capture your attention with a rich story that is layered with textures of Black regal excellence.
We spoke to Sadè about the process of making Knight and how the story is a celebration of Black royalty.
We’ve seen fairytale movies before with many versions, and different twists to the stories, what inspired you to take this approach?
We’ve definitely seen different takes on fairy tales, but many of them leave out people of the African Diaspora. I grew up being obsessed with fantasy films like Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, and Princess Bride and never saw Black people in them. I wanted to do a take on a fantasy tale that was rich with and celebrated Blackness but also infused humor. We often don’t get to see a Black version of a Mel Brooks film. I wanted to reimagine history to include people who are so often left out. Even though we’re the descendants of kings and queens, we don’t often get to see Black people hold positions of power in a western context. Spotify gave me the opportunity to create anything, and I wanted to make something that I would’ve liked to watch as a little Black girl.
How long did the film take to shoot?
We shot the film over two days. We jam-packed a lot into those two days, and we had a little under a week or two of prep prior. I edited the film myself in just under a week. That included music, color correction and everything in just under a week. I worked on it non-stop until it was done to meet our deadline.
The characters in the film are rather eccentric and each of them adds flavor to the play, no matter how much screen time they have. Which of the characters did you have the most fun writing?
We had the most fun writing the King, played by Grammy award-winning artist Robert Glasper. His first line, “Hear ye. Hear ye y’all,” I think just encapsulates that character and the world pretty perfectly. It was fun to write a king that’s a hot mess.
A nice surprise in this movie is seeing Robert Glasper taking on this funny role. Was it hard getting him to play the character? How did he get involved?
Robert inspired the role, I wrote with him in mind. We couldn’t use SAG actors, so when I thought about non-actors that could play this role, I immediately thought of him because it was written for him. It was his first time acting and he was a natural. He shined and kept us all laughing on set. I got him on board because I collaborated with him and Common on videos in the past for their project August Greene.
One of the elements that caught me off guard is how you use this proudly Black soundtrack against this sort of “Western setting”, especially the opening song. Was this intentional?
Absolutely. The theme throughout both the visual design and sound design was always to exude a mixing of cultures and genres. When I approached Edan Frei, who co-wrote the script with me and is an amazing producer (please check out his band @b00tymusic) we both discussed blending Western and African styles and instrumentation. Edan is a remarkably talented violinist so over chores he nailed the strings. We brought in Leddie Garcia to do the drums, and Sigin Ojulu, our lead, wrote and sang in her native Sudanese dialect. It was very intentional for it to feel like a melting pot of cultures deeply rooted in an African aesthetic in the context of this Western world. The music really amplified that, and I was really grateful to collaborate with Edan and sing on some tracks myself.
What would you like viewers to take away from this film?
My first hope is that Black and brown womxn can feel empowered and seen. That Black people, especially children, are inspired to re-imagine themselves in any genre and know that nothing is impossible (cue; Whitney Houston in her fairy godmother outfit!). I want viewers to laugh and take away a sense of joy. I want people to feel proud and like this is Black excellence in all its forms. I want people to walk away wanting to see more of us on screen in all kinds of dynamic roles.
Where can people get to see some of your work?
People can go to Out Of Many Media’s Instagram page, which is my production company or visit our website Out of Many Media, a dedicated home to underrepresented artists creating visionary work. There you’ll find the link to my personal website.