Movie Reviews

Jason Delane Lee and Yvonne Huff Lee on Race, Adoption and Identity | Black Writers Week

JL: Let’s be real. It’s not just obtaining. It’s surviving. In order to survive in many cases, you have to contort yourself to fit in a certain narrative.

YL: Do you think that your half-sister was trying to survive?

JL: No. This is an assumption. I’ll answer with empathy and compassion in my heart. I have no ill will towards them. I honestly think she was more connecting with her mother than trying to survive. She was working in the tech space. She had a great job. Historically, are we all trying to survive? Yeah. I mean, anytime you go outside, I’ll say this is as a Black man. Anytime I go outside, I’m mindful of where I am all the time. There’s always an act of survival for us all in this landscape. But there’s also an identity, existential survival, I think, that’s more in play than an actual physical survival. To be herself. But if you identify… And this is again what we talked about in episode one, right? Like, if her mom is German, that’s how you identify, then so be it. Okay. That’s okay. Right? I’m a historian. I’m not a psychiatrist. So I don’t want to kind of fake like I have some answers here. But yes, I will say that she was trying to survive, but I don’t think she was trying to survive physically. I think she was mentally trying to stay connected in survival to her mother who she was living with. The historicism about passing in all of the various elements, sexually, immigration, gender, you name it. Race.

YL: Societal roles, societal identities.

JL: Fitting into the dominant culture. How do you fit into the culture and how long do you play the game in order to try to fit into that dominant culture?

YL: Right? Before it just tears out your soul. 

JL: Before it tears you apart.

YL: And that is a segue into bringing in our guests, Chaz Ebert and Brenda Robinson, executive producers of “Passing”. I’m really excited to talk to these two women who have definitely dealt with this question of who do we have to be in these spaces that aren’t traditionally made for us.

JL: Folks, what Yvonne did not mention just now is that she is also an executive producer of “Passing” alongside these two incredible women, and I got a special thanks, which I’m very proud of.

YL: We had fun on this one. It was awesome.

JL: Brenda Robinson is a producer and philanthropist. She is the current board chair of Film Independent and a partner at Gamechanger Films. Robinson, also a member of Film Financing Collective Impact Partners was a financier on the Oscar-winning documentary “Icarus,” alongside us, among other projects. Her executive producer credits include Rebecca Hall’s “Passing”, “United Skates” and the upcoming “Empire of Ebony” documentary directed by Lisa Cortez. She previously was Film Independent’s vice chair, and also has roles including serving on the board of the Representation Project founded by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and advisor to the Redford Center and is board chair of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. She is also a member of the Recording Academy and the Academy of MoBon Pictures Arts and Sciences.

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