Behind the Scenes: the Making of “You Haven’t Done Nothin’”
By Film Producer Adili Ailixier
In early May this year, Sunny Sumter from DCJF contacted me about a video project. After learning that it’s about a jazz musician doing a social justice themed live performance, I immediately told her that I’m interested. I’ve already had a great relationship with DCJF last year making a short promo for them, so I got pretty excited to work with them again.
One question I asked myself right from the beginning is that, how can I translate this performance into the film language that is both impactful and engaging? We can’t just videotape the whole performance and replay it on screen. It is not the purpose of this project. After having many discussions with Sunny and Michael Bowie, I suggested that I should have a sit down interview with Michael. So after we filmed the amazing performance of MBowie and the Blast, I met with Michael to pick his brain. What I’m most curious about is how his personal experience and emotions were combined with his music philosophy then fully expressed to the audience like he did during the live performance. We talked for about two hours, and I fully understood his clear motivations behind his brilliant artistry. And there I had my story.
The film constitutes with three parts and was connected with three songs I picked from the show that can best represent the core of the performance. They are “You Haven’t done Nothin”, “Going out of my Head” and “Motherless Child”. Throughout the film, we learn about how Michael drew his inspiration from greatest artists during civil rights movement like Stevie Wonder. We learn about his frustration in our modern day witnessing all the backlash from what this country has achieved on social justice. We also learn about his concerns and frustrations, his hopes and aspirations as an artist and activist in these special times. At the end of the film, he makes a statement that I believe most of us can all resonate with: “the fight won’t end until we can call this home.”
As part of an ethnic minority group from China, issues like systemic racism, open discrimination and persecution from the government is no stranger to me. After I came to this country two years ago, I realized people are suffering from the same issues that I’ve experienced back home. As a filmmaker, I think it is my obligation to tell those stories, and tell them in a most sincere way possible. I feel the same way towards this film “You Haven’t Done Nothin”. It is a slow contemplation of what it means to be an artist in our times. At the end of the day I hope people who watched this film, like Michael said, “would leave with a question or two.”