NJ Film Festival: Rap 'n' Reno by John McKelvey

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This week New Jersey Film Festival kicks off their event by showing various films around campus from this Friday, September 6th, to November 15th. Hosted by The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, there are many talented film creators from all over the country that will be featuring their international films, experimental and short subjects, documentaries, etc. on our very own campus. This year marks the 32nd year anniversary running of this event. Not only is this a big event throughout the state of New Jersey, but this is also a great event for students to attend; not only to see a great movie, but to get the chance to hear from film makers and their experience in the industry. For the list of movies, showtimes, and admission information feel free to check out the website at www.njfilmfest.com. One of the filmmakers, John McKelvey, who will be shown at the festival this Sunday, September 8th, is from the Rutgers area himself and has even taken film and acting classes here at Rutgers. His short documentary, Rap ‘n’ Reno, tells the true story of two women from Miami who came from very different cultural backgrounds, but when crossing paths, ended up making a bigger impact on each other’s lives than anyone at the time period could have noticed. The film follows hip-hop artist Anquette's journey and highlights how state attorney Janet Reno impacted her music career and vice versa. Here at Trim, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to John about his experience and inspiration when creating this film.

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Marisa Flacks: What was your inspiration to create this documentary?

John McKelvey: I am a hip-hop journalist and blogger. Therefore, I had heard about Anquette’s record, but when I heard her story I knew that there was so much more to tell. The record is the most concrete part of the story. Anquette wrote it about her [Janet Reno] and I knew there was a deeper story about the two of them. I started to look into both of their lives and connect the dots and really saw how their different cultures and background influenced each other.

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MF: How did you fall into creating a hip-hop documentary?

JM: Like I said, I’ve always had a love for hip-hop. However, that love kind of evolved over time into journalism and I started to realize that, at that time, there was not a lot of hip-hop information online; what better way than to create the information and put it out there myself, both through my blog and now the film.

 

MF: Was this the first film that you have created/directed/written?

JM: I’ve worked on many different films, but this was the first one that I fully created. It was definitely a lot more fulfilling knowing that it was my story that I was able to tell and make it on my own. A lot of the footage seen in the film is archived from when the story actually took place, including the riots in Miami during the 80’s and 90’s.

 

MF: What audience were you trying to reach when creating this film? Anquette’s fans from the 80’s, or the younger audience of today?

 JM: I think the audience is really anyone. You don’t have to be a fan of hip-hop to love this story because it is really about the mix of different cultures and the effects that it has. Even some people that work in hip-hop were unaware that this cultural exchange took place; no one really knew the full story.

 

MF: Do you think that things like this happen today and go unnoticed? Will history repeat itself? 

JM: There are plenty of stories like this that don’t get told or picked up on, this one definitely stands out. Two women from different cultures, but their stories are so connected and had a huge impact on each other.

 

John McKelvey is very passionate about his work and was really drawn to the material that he included in his documentary. Even speaking with him, I could tell how intriguing this topic was to him when he first started to discover the connection between these two unaffiliated women. Not only does he have a great love for this story, he also is passionate about hip-hop journalism and you can check out his blog at wernervonwallenrod.com or follow him on Twitter! Don’t forget to go check out his documentary Sunday, September 8th at Voorhees Hall, room 105, at 7pm. You can even stop by a little early to get a quick Q&A session with him!

Till next time,

Marisa Flacks

twitter: @mquacks

instagram: @mquacks