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Synopsis: 1936 Harlem is a neighborhood battered by economic strife and hardship. With FDR’s New Deal providing funding for the Federal Theatre Project’s Negro Unit, director Rose McClendon convinces co-director John Houseman to help her bring Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to the Harlem community at the Lafayette Theater — with an all-Black cast. They choose for their groundbreaking production a gifted but untested 20-year-old director by the name of Orson Welles, whose reimagined Haitian vision for the Scottish play is as daring and fresh as the cast and crew themselves.

However, it quickly becomes clear that the road to opening night will not be a smooth one. Orson and Rose — who’s playing Lady Macbeth — clash over everything from scene blocking to crew hires, while Houseman contends with a congressman hell-bent on shutting down what he deems “communist propaganda.” With funding in jeopardy and protestors of the production labelling it a mockery, Orson’s drug habit and alcoholism surface, creating a deeper divide not only between him and Rose, but also with his wife Virginia.

To make matters worse, the show’s lead actor goes missing just weeks before the opening, and Rose’s secret illness rears its head during a preview performance, landing her in the hospital. After reading a scathing review in the newspaper, a dejected Orson visits Rose in the hospital, where she finally convinces him it’s time to forego his own pride and ego for the sake of the show — this story belongs to his cast and crew, not just to him. He returns to the theater and rallies everyone together to make their vision a reality. Determined to keep Rose’s dream alive and make their community proud, the team re-casts the lead roles and rehearses with renewed purpose, bringing down the house on opening night and providing some much-needed catharsis for the people of Harlem. The show ultimately goes on to run for ten sold-out weeks before touring the country, to great acclaim.

Based on true events surrounding the Negro Theatre Unit’s revolutionary 1936 production of “Macbeth,” this is the story of a group of committed artists as they set out to create what is now considered a landmark event in African-American theatrical history.

Language

English

Run Time

108 minutes

Starring

Jewell Wilson Bridges (Orson Welles)
Inger Tudor (Rose McClendon)
Jerem Tardy (Maurice)
June Schreiner (Virgina Welles)
Wrekless Watson (Cuba)

Produced by

Jason Phillips
Miles Alva
Xiaoyuan Xiao

Production Designer

Maren Jensen

Cinematographer

Bash Achkar

Director's Statement

Voodoo Macbeth follows the first all-black cast to perform Shakespeare’s Macbeth, directed by an arrogant Orson Welles in 1936 Harlem, NY. Inspired by true events, the film engages in a timely dialogue told with a contemporary perspective set in the 1930s.

One of the most unique elements of the film lies within the project’s formation. With a grant from Warner Bros, USC was able to continue its almost decade-long feature filmmaking experiment with the production of Voodoo Macbeth.

The filmmaking process is one that truly exemplifies the meaning of collaboration. The film is
written in the Fall semester over the course of six months with a writer’s room of eight selected USC students. Subsequently, the script is thrust into production during the Spring semester with ten of the top graduate directing students and an almost all USC alumni crew. By bridging a television approach with the making of a feature, the students and alumni work together to create one unified story. The process raises a challenge to the auteur and demonstrates a collective approach.

In this film, you get dozens of new voices. All of which have a unique walk of life that represent a diverse group of genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Director's Bio

AGAZI DESTA:
Agazi is a first generation Ethiopian-American writer and director from the city of Boston. As a published writer (Thought Catalog) and award winning director (THE BREAD WINNER, 2017 Global Film Festival Selection, & Side Effects, The Caucus Foundation, Best T.V. Drama) he derives his passion in filmmaking from a literary discipline, gaining inspiration in the genres of drama, dark fantasy, and mystery.

CHRISTOPHER BEATON:
Christopher is a filmmaker from the seaside suburb of Del Mar, CA. He attributes his love for storytelling to years of adolescent sunburns which forced him to play inside with sprawling amalgamations of toy soldiers, dinosaurs, and robots. An alumnus of USC’s School of Dramatic Arts, his career started with the leading role in the feature film Pretty Perfect. He began splitting time behind the camera and developed a knack for directing. He’s written, directed, and produced a number of short films.

DAGMAWI ABEBE:
Dag is an Ethiopian born-American Writer, Director, and Editor who immigrated to the United States at the age of 10 and grew up in Virginia. There, he attended the University of Virginia where he majored in physics and minored in film studies. He graduated from the University of Southern California Film and TV Production MFA Program in May 2019. Dag currently resides in Los Angeles and is represented by David Baggelaar at GoodFear Film + Management.

ERNESTO SANDOVAL:
Ernesto is a Mexican-American film director from the San Fernando Valley. He graduated from UCLA with a BA in Theater with an emphasis in Playwriting in 2010 and from USC’s School
of Cinematic Arts in 2019 with an MFA in Film Production. His USC thesis film, THE DEVIL’S SON, was an Official Selection at the Austin Film Festival 2019 and is currently, airing on ShortsTV. Ernesto’s professional credits include Warner Bros’ YOUNG SHELDON, Blumhouse’s THE FOREVER PURGE, and Showtimes’ PENNY DREADFUL: CITY OF ANGELS.

HANNAH BANG:
Hannah is a South Korean writer/director with a love of mixing
the beautiful and macabre in her storytelling. After working in
the fine art photography world in New York, Hannah moved to LA and received her M.F.A. from USC’s film & tv production program. Hannah’s most recent projects include an ensemble theater play for the Hollywood Fringe Fest, her thesis film, and a short film that was shot during the pandemic shutdown using virtual production technology and LED screens. Hannah is a Jon Chu scholar, as well as a recipient of the Bridges and Larson Directing Scholarship.

ROY ARWAS:
Roy Arwas is a British-Israeli filmmaker who has been acknowledged for his work in over twenty festivals, including LA Shorts and Short of the Week. As an undergrad, he co-founded an independent production company which focused on new-media content. One of his most notable videos, GYM WILDLIFE received over 2 million views within the first two days of release. Since attending USC, Roy has focused on screenwriting and directing, while working to create inspiring, raw, and engaging stories.

SABINA VAJRAČA:
Born in Bosnia, Sabina immigrated to the U.S. as a war refugee, and started her career in NYC theatre. Her feature documentary BACK TO BOSNIA (2005 AFI Fest / Director’s Choice, 2006 Crossroads) is featured in the top 100 of the greatest films directed by women by BBC. Most recently her short VARIABLES won the DGA Student Film Awards Grand Prize and Alfred P. Sloan grant, and was nominated for the Student Oscars, Student BAFTA, and HUMANITAS Prize.

TIFFANY KONTOYANNIS:
Tiffany is a Latina writer, director, and producer. She is a published playwright, Miami Herald’s Silver Knight Winner, current student Emmy Nominee and HBO Semi-Finalist, and has been recognized for her work in film. Tiffany is a Barnard College of Columbia University graduate, along with having earned her master’s degree in film production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Tiffany is currently represented by Gersh Agency.

VICTOR ALONSO-BERBEL:
Victor is a writer and director, Film Production graduate from the USC, and member of the European Film Academy. He directed THE BRAVE CLASS (2016), a feature documentary
that premiered at DocsBarcelona and was a Best Documentary nominee at the Catalan Film Academy Awards, and his latest sci- fi short film PERFECTLY NATURAL (2018) was honored by the DGA. He’s currently developing his first narrative TV series for Spanish studio Mediapro (THE YOUNG POPE, CARNAGE).

ZOË SALNAVE:
From the Bay Area, Zoë’s passion for filmmaking grew as a 14-year-old documentarian crafting narratives steeped in diverse urban culture. With underrepresentation fueling her, Salnave’s films have been awarded internationally including a Resolution Award from the CA Senate. Her highest honor was privately screening for President Obama in 2010. She holds a BA from Mills College in Cinema Literacy and Cultural Studies and MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in Directing and Producing.

Country of Origin

USA

Production Year

2021

Official Website

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