On Tuesday, February 18th, I had the pleasure of attending a private screening at NeueHouse in New York City, to see an award winning film, called Premature. Written by Zora Howard and written/directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, the event was held by the NYWIFT organization, in honor of Black History Month.
Before watching, I didn’t know much about the film, except for the fact that Howard and Green would be hosting a Q&A session, once the screening ended.
However, from the time the first shot appeared on screen, until the credits rolled, my eyes were locked in. I don’t want to go too much into detail, because my written depiction of the film would not provide the same effect as watching it in person.
Though, I would like to discuss certain elements of it, and why I felt the way that I did. First of all, the premise of it was so raw, and especially being a New York native, every bit of what was filmed showed real elements of Harlem. According to Green himself, due to budgeting purposes, they either filmed in his own apartment, or somewhere right down the street.
The story follows 17-year old intellectual poet, Ayanna (Zora Howard), through her last Summer in Harlem, before heading off to college. The opening sequence introduces Ayanna on the subway, with her group of friends talking loudly, dancing around, and enjoying themselves. Right away, we get a sense that although Ayanna hangs out with them, she doesn’t seem to fit in with their circle.
Later on, we get an even better sense of that when she’s at the park with her friends. A group of their male friends are playing basketball, and while her friends appear somewhat flirtatious, Ayanna confronts a guy that she was seeing. Yet, when she finds out that he was involved with someone else, she ends up walking away towards a park.
That’s where we meet Isaiah (played by Joshua Boone). He sits beside her as she sways on the swing and attempts to introduce himself. However, like the fierce woman that she is, she walks away, and they don’t see each other until the next day, when they run into one another at the laundromat. From there, Ayanna finds out that Isaiah isn’t like other guys. He’s sensitive, also an intellectual, and his passion for music is equivalent to her passion for poetry.
Their days following that mutual discovery were pure bliss. They were in the honeymoon phase, where nothing and no one could come in between them. They were invincible… or so they thought.
As the film progressed, Ayanna began going through challenges that no teenager should ever have to face.
The cinematography was another element that blew me away. There was one shot in particular that my friend and I couldn’t stop talking about on the train ride home, and that was the river image. At one point, Isaiah and Ayanna were sitting on a rock, right in front of the river. In front of them stood a massive bridge, and the shot was filmed as the sun began to set. It’s been days since I last saw the film, and that image is still engraved in my mind.
Aside from the cinematography and the storyline, Ayanna’s language was so poetic and hypnotizing. During the Q&A, an audience member had a question in regards to the placement of the poetry. Howard took that opportunity to admit that up until the day of filming that specific scene, the poetry wasn’t supposed to be in the film at all.
She stated that she had written poetry in the past, and that she had certain pieces memorized. So, when time came and Green asked her to implement poetry throughout the film, she was able to do so with such a soft and fluid voice. I never would have guessed that it was a spur of the moment decision if she hadn’t said so. In my opinion, someone who can fit last minute changes into a script is the definition of a strong writer.
Green and Howard also stated that they’ve known each other for years, but only recently did they get the opportunity to work together. That’s motivating towards young, aspiring filmmakers, because they didn’t have a Warner Brothers budget. They simply collaborated on an idea, self-invested, and they followed through until its completion.
While speaking to Howard about how incredible of a writer/performer she is, I found that I was unintentionally doubting myself quite a lot, and she told my friend and I that anyone can write. Whether it’s poetry, screenplays, dialogue, etc., all we have to do is believe in ourselves and we can make it happen.
Overall, I highly recommend watching this film. Although it is for mature audiences, it contains issues that are relevant in today’s society, especially towards women. Howard and Green did not hold back when writing the script/producing the visuals, and it shows. There are many thematic elements that will formulate in your mind, even after the film ends.
You can watch Premature in theaters, or on certain streaming platforms, by going to https://www.prematurefilm.com/tickets/