Ophelia and her pain-tings… Afro Futurism, magical realism, womanist short film… Ophelia’s Opera directed by Abiola Abrams is a domestic violence revenge tale where Ophelia uses a spell to free herself from an abusive relationship. An experimental film in which each character speaks a different lyrical language- Shakespearian, rap verse, Cantonese, American Sign Language and Jamaican patois—but they all understand each other.
Ophelia’s Opera is now a part of the Criterion Collection, in affiliation with Miranda July’s Joanie4Jackie.
Ophelia’s Opera Full Cast & Crew
Directed by: Abiola Abrams
Writing: Abiola Abrams
Cast (in credits order)
Taqiyya Haden – Ophelia
Malcolm Foster Smith – Mark
Titilayo Ngwenya – Moses Lisa
Corey Hibbert – Sam
Connie Teng – Leelee
Nicole Aiken – Rah
Abiola Abrams – producer
Kristal D. Mosley – producer
Music by: Titilayo Ngwenya
Joshua Bee Alafia – as Joshua Alafia
Film Editing by:
Carrie Brewer – fight choreographer
Ophelia’s Opera: Current Mood
I am finally posting “Ophelia’s Opera,” my first womanist short film, for your viewing pleasure. I shot it in ’01 (before I went to grad school) and I was so nervous that I wrote it in secret and then kinda turned off my phone to some people closest to me who I perceived might be potential naysayers until after shooting the movie. We shot it in my old bachelorette spot in East Harlem (as opposed to my new bachelorette spot in west Harlem!). It was an amazing adventure. right before we shot, i went into the bathroom and had a total 3 minute panic attack. i was like, Wh crap– there are 30 people in my apartment to help me bring this stuff in my head to life!!! Then I walked out calmly and told everyone to get it together and be ready to roll!!!
My objective was to shoot an experimental film– a Shakespearean/hip hop opera. I wanted each character to speak a different lyrical language, but have them all understand each other. They speak Elizabethan and hip hop verse, Cantonese, song, and ASL, American Sign Language. I rehearsed my actors for two weeks, and had two DPs. It was an interesting microcosm of society before we shot as male and female crew squared off against each other.
The film is about an abused woman (my story combined with my friend’s), and male crew (understandably) felt like, do we need to see another black man abusing someone? Female crew, especially those who had been in similar situations, felt like thanking the goddess that this story is being told. It was in a tiny way an echo of the conversations and protests that I’ve read happened around Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and ntozake shange’s “for colored girls.” Folks felt also that these projects were airing dirty laundry. Well, dirty laundry just stinks up the house.
Eventually, I decided– with slight adjustments– to make my film, and invited any crew to make rebuttal shorts if they felt that they could create an alternate representation of the story.
Another issue people had: I was told time and time again that blackfolks don’t “get” experimental film. 1 – that’s a lie. Anyway, the moral of the story is make your movie, write your book — tell your story! Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but if you are not risking failure or saying something that someone somewhere won’t take issue with, then you are not creating art. That’s my 2 cents…
Ophelia’s Opera– 15 minutes… You are now invited to roam about my mind freely…
:::You may be also interested in: Knives in My Throat