Director Biography – Julia C Liu (DRIVING WHILE BLACK MAGIC)

Julia is a Providence based director, cinematographer and artist, interested in exploring stories that center BIPOC voices. Her passion for visual storytelling started through her comics, evolving into filmmaking as a way to bring her illustrations to life. Liu is a contributing director to the New York Times’ Emmy-nominated Op-Doc Series and has directed and shot music videos premiering on Stereogum and NPR Music. She is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild and a graduate of Brown University.Director Statement

I directed DRIVING WHILE BLACK MAGIC to explore the internal world of someone trying to decolonize herself in an oppressive state. It is a surrealist film based on the play A FURTIVE MOVEMENT: THE USE OF FARCE written by Vatic Tayari Kuumba. I met Vatic by chance at a community art show in 2018. We found common ground as artists who are interested in creating weird and immersive work through a strong anti-racist lens. When I first read his play, I was immediately drawn into the world of Providence Plantations and how it mirrors our own. Many outside of our homestate do not know our official name is “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” This legacy of slavery was on the state seal until the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings forced state governments to re-evaluate these symbols of oppression.
In April of 2019, Vatic and I began collaborating on an adaptation of his play for the screen. Our goal was more than telling a story; we wanted to create a visceral experience that drops the viewer in the POV of our heroine Nadege. The audience should experience her daily rituals for protection and affirmation and feel her weariness and anxiety from living in an anti-Black world.
In Vatic’s play, Providence Plantations is a Purgatory where all the characters are trapped in a theatrical farce. Adapting this idea of Purgatory to the screen was one of my biggest challenges as a director. We incorporated symbolism and repeating imagery to conjure an other-worldly atmosphere in the art direction. It was important that we show the destruction of police violence without being overly graphic. In this world, blood becomes crystals and rose petals.
I am inspired by Nadege and Obeah, complex women who find power through ritual. How do you decolonize your own thoughts when faced with the lurking presence of structural racism and state violence? This film attempts to answer that question through the experience of one woman’s daily commute home.

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