Andrew Dosunmu talks about shooting ‘Mother of George’ in Brooklyn

Director Andrew Dosumnu directed the film "Mother of George," set in a Nigerian community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Credit: Getty Images
Director Andrew Dosunmnu directed the film “Mother of George,” set in a Nigerian community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Credit: Getty Images

Growing up in Nigeria, the photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu would watch movies set in New York. When he came to live here, he was surprised by how much of the city never made it to films. “It’s like, ‘How come I don’t see this New York?’” he says. “It’s always Times Square and all that.”

That just left more for him to shoot himself. Following 2011’s “Restless City,” the new “Mother of George” is set and was filmed in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. (Though there are scenes also shot in Bed-Stuy and East New York.) “I love the diversity of it. It’s so different, each neighborhood.”

The line on Brooklyn is that it’s being swallowed by gentrification. Dosunmu doesn’t think it’s gotten that far. “It’s changing, but it’s still got that core. There’s still a sense of neighborhood, community, family. Most places when they change you lose that community aspect of it. Brooklyn still retains that. It’s not like the Lower East Side, where no one who lived there 20 years ago can afford to live there.

“Change actually makes for a nice blend,” he says. “You go down Franklin Avenue — there’s a new wine store, but there’s a Jamaican place next door.”

“Mother of George” is set entirely within the Nigerian section of Crown Heights, where rituals from home carry on amid flowering multiculturalism. Still, you don’t see many people from outside their tight-knit community.

“Every culture’s got its oasis in this metropolis. You go to Queens, you get East Indian. You walk down three blocks, you think you’re in Mumbai. You walk down three more blocks, you think you’re in Bogota. You go into a neighborhood and you think you’re somewhere else. You go to a friend’s neighborhood, they’re Balkan or Indian, and you think you’re in that place. You come out the door and you realize you’re in New York. I really wanted to capture that intimacy.”

The images in “Mother of George” are primary, but there is a plot: Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead”) plays a woman who has trouble getting pregnant by her new husband (Isaach de Bankole). The screenplay was written by playwright Darci Picoult, who immersed herself in the world despite being, unlike her director, not from it. More importantly, she was asked to avoid the usual stamp of a writer: words. “I told her to write in images before she wrote with words,” Dosunmu recalls. “She was open to that. Most screenwriters aren’t like that. They say, ‘Those are my words, don’t take my dialogue away.’ She wasn’t like that.”

The images themselves were not shot by Dosunmu, but by Bradford Young, the star cinematographer (he also lensed “Pariah,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”) The two friends’ photographs shared similar traits. “Brad said he wanted to make it almost sci-fi in a way,” Dosunmu says. As with Young’s other work, the lighting is very dim. “I like the fact that half the image is lost into darkness. It’s intriguing. It makes the audience sit up. It’s not like a supermarket, fluorescent lights, fully lit.”

Dosunmu still values his thespians. “With actors, it’s about spending time with them prior to the film,” he says. “Spending time doesn’t mean rehearsals. It just means hanging out, exposing them to my world. That could be going to a concert or a flea market. I want their performances to be organic, something that is not forced.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 7,…

Drunk girls and ghost brownies: here’s your weekly ‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap by way of Q&A. Q: do they really not check for feet under…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.