In Nia DaCosta Little woodTessa Thompson plays Ollie, a woman trying to survive the last days of her probation after being illegally caught selling prescription drugs in a rural town in North Dakota on the Canadian border. When Deb (Lily James), Ollie's younger sister, faces a growing financial and personal crisis related to an unplanned pregnancy, a driving ex-boyfriend and an overdue mortgage, Ollie is forced to decide if she is ready to return to her life, she thought she left her behind for even more points – this time to save her family. The independent feminist drama is striking, rhythmic and full of thrills.
Before her theatrical release, Nia DaCosta and Tessa Thompson spoke with Remezcla about Little wood and be women of color working to bring lasting change to Hollywood.
Little wood opens in theaters on April 19, 2019.
Nia DaCosta on writing a movie set in rural North Dakota
I wanted to explore my reality far from New York. I know what it means to be a woman and to be a woman who is not very well off. I wanted to explore women born in similar circumstances but living in a rural part of America. I wanted to explore that more. Then I wanted to tell the story of two women in northwestern North Dakota, and in particular, how they lived in poverty. So, being poor should include what health care looks like for them, what reproductive care looks like, and other factors that particularly affect women.
You know, the more research you do, the more you really feel about the people who live in those places and who live the life you are trying to describe, the more your film and your characters become real. It comes from my experience of poverty, but from a different geographical location, I entered it from this point of view. It was to write what I know, but to write what I know emotionally.
Tessa Thompson on the Time's Up "Challenge 4%" work with a woman
Inclusion does not occur by mistake. In fact, Nia [DaCosta] said something brilliant earlier, namely that the exclusion actually takes place – if not by mistake, then somehow intentionally. So, in Hollywood, there are a lot of women as directors, as evidenced by the number of independent films made by women, but only 4% of these women then go to the movies. make movies in the studio. They are just not in the room.
The idea is then that we create a mandate – that people create a mandate for themselves – by saying, "I pledge to do it, and I will do it for 18 months". It's a call to action. And it was amazing to see all the people who participated in the challenge. It's amazing to see people unpack and realize that it's an oversight for them. Until we decide to solve this systemic problem, nothing will change. For me, working with women directors is something I do naturally during my career.
One of my first films was written and directed by a black director, Tina Mabry. It's important for me to be on a set that looks – in terms of the crew and people I work with – with the world I live in. I also think it's just … it's just nice to have an experience where you do not feel altered. Make the movie Little wood with not only Nia at the helm, but also women who produce it, and the story was really centered around two women, was exceptional. I hope we can get to the place where it will be normal, but for me, in my current career, it is really important.
Tessa Thompson on her character, Ollie
I always start with myself and then deal with circumstances. Nia wrote a very beautiful script in which he was very clear what Ollie wanted. I understood what was in her heart, which really mattered to her: protecting her sister and her nephew. They were all she had. She had nothing to lose, except for them. It was a performance where I could focus on what this woman needed without pretension because she did not have one. Ollie is a woman who does not ask for approval. She is a woman who has been injured by trauma; she does not want anyone. The only person she needs or wants to be loved is her sister. It was liberating.
Tessa Thompson: being Afro-Latina in Hollywood
I am someone who speaks a lot about performance. It's important to see more black women on the screen. Sometimes there is not necessarily a conversation about the nuance of "what kind of black woman?" I mean, we are not a monolith. I feel comforted when a young woman sees a movie in which I am and says she can relate to me. I am also sensitive to the fact that women of color and black women see me in a film and do not feel seen. It's real and true.
In Hollywood, I do not think there is enough real representation and nuance in this space. I see a lot of amazing Afro-Latinas walking, but I'm not sure there are enough stories about this experience. I'm really interested in telling stories like my grandmother's.
You know, my grandmother was from Panama – from Colón – in the United States to study there when she was a twenty-year-old woman. She met my grandfather, a black from Oklahoma. They had my aunt, then my father. She then lived mainly in the United States as a black woman – because that's what people think, but her mother tongue was Spanish. She only learned English when she was in her twenties and already in the United States. She had a rich cultural experience, which was very rewarding, but it was erased in some ways because she came to this country and needed to integrate.
These stories are fascinating! My grandmother died when I was sixteen and she had Alzheimer's disease. I could not talk to her about her experience: being in her skin, then leaving her at home, then in America, and having to deal with the breed here. These stories are beautiful and interesting. These are stories that I would like to see more often.
The time is almost here! @ LittleWoodsFilm premieres this weekend in LA, NY and many other cities. I will do a few questions and answers this weekend with extraordinary people, @nlyonne, @thesheertruth and @ccfilmcritic of @BlackGirlNerds.
Come hang! pic.twitter.com/MXGnaS4YK2
– Nia DaCosta (@NiaDaCosta) April 18, 2019