From New York City comes Jeremiah Jahi and his poignant film Never Came Back. It is an intimate appraisal of the lasting consequences of incarceration on the African-American consciousness, showing the return of a father to a now distanced family after a period of twenty-five years. Below you can read more about Jeremiah and the work he continues to do.
What is your connection to the South?
I am a southerner from the start. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Ga. I also, have ties with South Carolina, seeing that I am a Marine Corps war veteran, which means that I did bootcamp at the world renown Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, SC.
Where did you get your inspiration for this work?
I got my inspiriation for my film, Never Came Back, from a number of sources. Mainly coming from a family of military veterans as far back as World War I, I have seen them all struggle with the trials and tribulations of life after they return from their particular tours of service. I have family members and friends of the family that are like the characters in this film. Also, having watched many documentaries and narrative films about military veterans returning home from war, I rarely came across films that dealt with the military personnel as it relates to the Black military veteran. Most films I have seen, have dealt with veterans at the stage of their immediate return home, juxtapose to this film looking at their lives years later. I wanted to place the film in a context that deals with several things that are a part of life in inner cities such as drugs, housing, lost dreams and hopes, and the working poor. All of which are circumstances that many veterans find themselves a part of in their life.
How did you start making films?
Mainly, I am an actor. That is my most immediate entry into and experience as it relates to filmmaking. With that being said, I always new that I would become a filmmaker. For some reason, my life, educational background, coupled with my high notion of curiosity, it all leads up to storytelling, which for me, is what a writer and director is. Although I love acting, my gut has always said, that my most prominent, rewarding and lasting work will come from my storytelling. So, I started reading books on filmmaking, watching more foreign films than I ever imagined, observing, listening and asking a ton of questions no matter what set I was on. Soon after, I started taking a lot of continuing education classes in filmmaking at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, where I lived for years. Needless, to say after completing a short film, which went on to screen at over thirty festivals and receive at about five awards, I was hooked to the power of filmmaking as it relates to a medium of storytelling.
Did anything interesting or funny happen on the set during the shooting?
During some of the filming of the out door scenes, specifically the scenes where one actors is wearing a Marine Corps dress uniform coming from the funeral of his brother, several bystanders would walk up to him and say,”thank you for your service.” It was funny because one, the camera was near by so, it should have suggested it was a film. Two, which is really funny to me, is that know one looked at the ranking on his sleeve, which would have brought up the question of why would a near seventy year old man be wearing a uniform with a private first class ranking in the middle of Brooklyn, New York. I found that to be funny.
What do you look forward to the most during Indie Grits?
As with any film festival, I always look forward to seeing the films and meeting the filmmakers. Completing a film is hard work. Being independently creative is hard work. I look forward to chomping it up with the DYI filmmakers that took the time, skill and effort to bring their work from a thought to a realized completed bonafide work of art.
Why should someone see your film?
I think my film should be seen first and foremost by people that are lovers of the DYI spirit of independent filmmakers. Secondly, the story of my film, I feel is universal, in that it deals with the one thing we all have in common which is change and how we grapple with change. It also, should be seen because of its subplots dealing with incarceration and how the going away and the return of a loved who has been incarcerated can interrupt a life for the good and the bad. All of this leads to the one thing mentioned above, which is how people grapple with change.