Roaring though film festivals such as Slamdance and now the Boston Underground Film Festivalcomes the empowering, tragic and artistic story of young woman named Myeisha (Rhaechyl Walker). Written originally by talented educator and writer Rickerby Hinds, MY NAME IS MYEISHA is a journey through the final moments of situation that went from calm to chaos. Adapted from the stage play Dreamscape to the screen comes the story of real horror happening.
Being a white male, I am not sure I can give this film review the justice it deserves. MY NAME IS MYEISHA is an honest portrait of people going by their instincts to survive during a holiday evening in December 1998. Blending artistic expressions to show elements of life including hip hop, poetry, spoken word dialogue, dance, film, song and visual art, MY NAME IS MYEISHA introduces us to defensive character crossing the street to get home and celebrate the holiday of Kwanzaa. Surrounded by family, the seven values of the holiday build a connection and love which is why Myeisha is protective and is why she is just like anyone else. Breaking the fourth wall and building an identity and bond with the viewer, Co-writer, Producer and Director Gus Krieger continues exploring the personal side of Myeisha’s life as her cousin and their friend head out for a night to the club.
As they move closer to the club, the car gets a flat tire. Being stranded, they have to park at a gas station and wait in a dangerous area enroute to Los Angeles. As Myeisha waits in the car, her friend and cousin head over to make a call for help to get the tire fixed. Falling asleep with her head laying her lap for protection, Myeisha’s mind becomes the next act as she foreshadows the trauma that is unfolding. As Myeisha dreams in the locked car, the police arrive to investigate the call for help with deadly events that are put in motion. The events are told from three different perspectives including Myeisha, the police officer involved in the shooting and the paths of the bullet.
MY NAME IS MYEISHA is a storm. Building a relationship with the audience, we experience the life of a young black woman taken before her time. As stated above, the film is an artistic showcase with every possible form of expression presented throughout the narrative including amazing performances and masterful beatbox skills from John “Faahz” Merchant. Myeisha’s story is full of life, love and exploration. Watching this film, you wonder what your life would be showcased as just moments before you die. Unlike the framing and formatting that is presented in the stage play, the film does not take the perspective from start to finish as each path of the bullet builds the narrative. MY NAME IS MYEISHA is set in three acts instead of twelve. We are introduced to Myeisha, her family and life in act one. Act two follows up and reveals her life with the events unfolding slowly and artistically. This is finished up in the final act that culminates with the intensity of the emotion and the conflict with the recreation of the shooting punctuating the film.
Watching clips of Dreamscape on Youtube, the full development of the visual canvas is so crucial and so different from the stage play. Watching this film, I found myself connecting on a personal level with how I would see my life and how those around me would be affected by a one assumption and choice. Though I could never understand the struggle, conflict or experience that the essential characters or conflict brings to light, I can understand the human side of this story and the layers that both Krieger and Hinds tell. To break down the marriage of performance, cinematography, choreographing, sound design, music and artistic placement would take hours. I will say however, that it works and new elements development upon each viewing! As a fan of old school hip hop, 90’s R&B and dramatic expression I was entranced throughout with a wave of energy that flowed on so many levels. The visual collage we see on screen takes the viewer through the rhythmic fever dream Myeisha is experiencing. The memories she shares, moments that impacted her and the spirit she was, tells such a story.
With all the celebration and creative expression shared on screen, the film does have an eerie tone and a growing darkness that surfaces slowly before exploding in one final scene. The fear Myeisha faced… the fear the officer faced… the sadness of her family and friends. The overwhelming sorrow for a life loss so young is palpable. Sitting back after watching this film twice, you can’t fully take in it all until the shock has leveled out. Upon the second viewing, you find shocking but for me felt more like a balance of celebration and sorrow which includes the full effect of the mood setting score and sound. However, there is an honesty, a fear and understanding that Krieger and Hinds makes sure is not buried by this tragedy. It is an objective throughout and makes you understand that for something like this to happen, there needs to be more than one side of the story told which makes this story even more connecting.
Walker is outstanding as Myeisha putting a spirit to the tragedy. She is a portrait of beauty, strength and vulnerability who builds a relationship with every viewer watching this film. Without knowing the real Myeisha, you feel like you connect on some level with her. Going inside Myeisha’s head, heart and soul is an artistic journey that through color, sound and expression will challenge and embrace a set of moments back on December 28, 1998 in California.