Written by McKenzie Clarke.
Cedric Beal, founder of CMB Productions, had the opportunity to interview Alana Barrett-Adkins, writer, director, producer, and star of Asunder: One Flesh Divided. The film, a powerful meditation on the beauty and trials of black love, will be premiering at the American Black Film Festival. Here is an excerpt of their conversation.
CB: What inspired you to make this film?
AB-A: Oh, boy. Well, actually this film was started based on a prayer that I was having. I was praying to God, and I was like “Yo, look God. I’m single, I’m ready, I’m ‘bout that life, so here’s what I think we should do. I think I should do a 90 day free trial on a husband and see how that works… I can always ship him back on Amazon.” [Laughter] And as playful as it was, I actually started to see things. God started to show me things that married couples have to go through. From just dealing with somebody in your space [to] lust, infidelity, temptation, addiction. Then you have the family element on top of that... All of those things that come up. And after all that, still making the decision to love somebody. And what does love really look like? What is love truly? In an unselfish, agape, fully encompassing kind of love?
But the other thing I wanted to do too …is show that black, nuclear family. We don’t really see that too much in our community. I grew up with a single mother. I knew my dad, I have a relationship with my dad, but I was raised by my mom. But I think in our community we don’t really see black marriages and black people trying to work it out and work together as much. 50% chance in America, there’s a 50% chance you’re gonna get a divorce. But I think it’s even worse in our community. We have a lot more single-parent homes than we do nuclear families, and there’s nothing wrong with that (I’m the product of a single parent home), but I wanted to see what it would look like if we saw that black, nuclear family and [them] just trying to work it out… I really wanted these characters to fight for their marriage. I didn’t want them to just break up. I wanted it to be difficult.
CB: Why do you think it is that there is a higher rate of divorce in our communities? Is it just a lack of love?
AB-A: I honestly think this is intergenerational. This goes back to slavery. All of these things affect where we are now, and even in terms of government incentives. There are more incentives for black women to be single than to be married, especially if you’re on government assistance and things like that. And so being separated by force, our families being ripped apart, you learn to live without a man. You learn to survive without a woman. And then overtime, it just becomes a badge of pride. You know, “I don’t need no man. I don’t need no woman.” It becomes a badge of honor when really it’s just trauma. It’s trauma.
CB: So you wrote, directed, and starred in this film. How was that process?
AB-A: Oh, my God. [Laughter] I am not the kind of person where I need to be in and do everything. I wanted to have somebody else direct this, somebody else play Ruth. But the people that were around me and were involved were just like, “Well, why don’t you just do it?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t wanna do it because I don’t direct. I’m here to support. I’ll write the screenplay and do all that.” But it just seemed like all the rows kept leading back to me to do a lot of things, and to God be the glory we were able to do it. But I did not intend to do it on my own. [Chuckles]. But yeah, I wrote it, produced it, directed it, and was in it… I feel like I definitely know Ruth. I feel like I had a deep connection with that character.
CB: Rock Alari Studios, both CEO and artistic director. What are the challenges that come with that?
AB-A: [Deep breath] So because we don’t have our own studio, and we contract out our services a lot, it comes down to me doing all the budgeting for the books and things like that. And now with Asunder getting to the festival and not only having to talk about the film as an artistic piece, but also going behind the scenes and negotiating deals, and we’re talking distribution and all of that, that’s I think, been the biggest challenge. Knowing which hat to put on and take off, and I have to have them with me at all times.
CB: Who was your target audience?
AB-A: I know that my niche is gonna be Black Americans, particularly Millennials...But this is for everybody. If you can roll with me, I’ll roll with you. But I definitely don’t shy away from the African American experience or from making things that are exclusively about African Americans cause our stories are American stories. They’re stories anybody can understand.
CB: Rock Alari is a production company committed to creating, inspiring, and empowering excellence in the theatrical and cinematic arts through faith. When you say “through faith,” could you please elaborate on that?
AB-A: Absolutely. So like I mentioned before, my faith is embedded in everything that I do. And I think that these tools, cause I know God has given me the gift to tell stories. Not just to write them, but to craft them into cinematic features. Whether they’re like the webseries we have on Youtube, or this film, or one of the other projects that I’m actually working on right now, the faith is the anchor, and the root of everything that comes from it… It’s very important that the faith is at the root of everything we do, because I think that’s the message. But I also want to make sure that the message is told in a way, or seen in a way, or crafted in a way that is excellent. The message always at the root of it is Christ, but I wanna reach everyone, and one of the things you have to do to reach everyone is speak other people’s language. And I think sometimes the Christian films, or the faith based films are just speaking to other Christians, and they’re afraid to really go deep into humanity and speak to what ails people… I feel like we need to, without compromising the message, speak the language that people understand and let them know that we understand and empathize.
CB: What role does insecurities and its effects on loved ones play in this film?
AB-A: I think this is why it’s so important that when you come into a marriage or a relationship that you’re whole as much as possible. You know, people think of the word “single.” The word “single” doesn’t mean that you’re lacking something. The word “single” means “whole.” And of course, you still have issues and problems, but when you’re not whole...bleeds into other areas of your life.
CB: What is the best way that we can support you and all of your work?
AB-A: I think just sharing this. Come sign up for the American Black Film Festival. Just go to their website, register, watch the film, share it, share your thoughts, go on Twitter while it’s happening #Asunderfilm2019. Also, we’re on Instagram. My personal [instagram handle] is @alana.b.a, and then you can also follow at @rockalaristudios.