We all have stories to tell -- anecdotes about our experiences, what we hope for in the future, and the words that have moved us throughout our lives. However, the structure of the entertainment industry makes it so that only certain voices are given platforms, but things are changing. In recent years, mentorship programs like AT&T’s Hello Lab have helped minorities and women push through the red tape. AT&T’s Hello Lab specifically, is empowering up-and-coming filmmakers and writers while giving them the opportunity to bring their stories and views to the forefront of the industry. Nefertite Nguvu is one of those voices.
Nguvu’s debut self-funded film In the Morning was her love letter to Black women and focused the intricacies and changes in relationships. Now, with her film The Last Two Lovers At The End of The World which will debut on DIRECTV NOW on Dec. 1. Nguvu was able to step back and lean into her creative flow. “With self-fund projects, there are so many things that you have to think about outside of the creative that are exhausting,” she explained. “Not having to think about, ‘How am I going to get the money, whom am I going to get?’ All of those things take a huge load off your shoulders as a creative person. Sometimes in situations like that, the creative things are the last things that you get to think about at the end of the day because you're so busy trying to put out fires and figure out logistics. So that was really lovely, just to have the opportunity to focus on the creative aspect of making the film and not worry about those things.”
AT&T’s Hello Lab Mentorship Program connects filmmakers with industry leaders. This year’s mentors included Octavia Spencer, Common, and Rick Famuyiwa who provided support to the filmmakers as they crafted signature short films. Nguvu’s mentor was Academy Award Winner Common whom she’d worked with previously. “From the first project that we did together which was the Love Star mini-documentary, it's just been really wonderful, “ she reflected. “He’s everything that he appears to be. He's just an incredibly generous, smart, collaborative person. So it really was wonderful working with him and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to make this film.“
Nguvu’s The Last Two Lovers At The End of The World is a gorgeously shot film set in the near future on New Year’s Eve. The movie follows two young lovers as they try to outsmart the end of the world. Considering the current political climate the world, the film provides a searing commentary that hits very close to home. For Nguvu it was all about hope. “The only parameter that we were given as filmmakers that we had to adhere to was that the story should be youth-driven," she explained. “When this opportunity came about for this program, it was after the election of Donald Trump. It was after the horrible summer that we had with all the police brutality incidents and this constant barrage of horrifying news that was coming closer and closer. I felt like that was an opportunity to do something that I felt could be hopeful because I'm one of those people that believe that at the end of the day all of our hope rests upon the young and the youth. They're the least jaded members of our society in most cases. I felt like all of the things that were happening in the news, all of the things that we were all feeling assaulted by daily, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell a story that would take two young brown folks and make them heroes. The narrative that we often see about young brown folks is that they're destroying our society. They're in fact trying to save us and [are] the last hope for people to get to a new world.”
Coated in a sunset pink color palette, the film is set in Los Angeles on the verge of an apocalypse. Though Nguvu had six months to conceive the film and its script, The Last Two Lovers was shot in just three days this past summer. For the New York’s School of Visual Arts graduate, many inspirations helped her bring her vision to life. “Afropunk for sure were some of my very big visual references," she expressed. “I'm such a fan of what the folks at Afropunk have clung to, and I love attending because you get to see some otherworldly looking Black folks. It felt like they definitely look like Black folks of the future. I was telling a future-set story, I wanted to think about what that really looks like. The tribal marks and things like that, I feel like in many cases, the future is always related to the past. Because of this world we had created with a curfew and repressive society, I felt like that would sort of lead people to fall back on these ideas of tribalism and these ideas also of individuality. It was a combination of all of those things. I had references that were everything from like, Afropunk to Black narrative horror stories. It was just a combination of many things.”
With one-on-one guidance from her mentor and suggestions from her advisors, Nguvu was able to stretch and expand as a filmmaker in ways that she hadn’t be able to previously. “I feel like with each thing that I do, I try to learn a new skill," she reflected. “So being able to work with a bigger budget, I wanted to try to stretch myself and do some things I hadn't done before. I'm usually like ‘Okay, two people at a coffee shop is what we can afford so let me try to figure that out and write something interesting that's dialogue driven that's really about the characters because we don't have a big canvas to paint with.’ With this, having a bigger budget allowed me to expand my skill set in terms of what I'm able to or feel comfortable working with just from a practical skill level. I guess on a personal level; I think it made me or solidified for me, the things that are important to me in terms of the type of filmmaker that I wanted to be, the type of stories that I want to tell, and my commitment to telling those stories.”
The Last Two Lovers At The End of The World could not have come at a more poignant time, and Nguvu’s wish is that films like this one will galvanize people to act. “Given where we are now politically, my greatest hope is that people will see it, be inspired by it, and be inspired to get involved and try to make change in the communities in which they live in," she revealed. “One good, silver lining in this troubled time that we live in is that I think people are a lot more aware and awoke and hopefully ready to participate in the change that needs to happen in their communities and in our world -- the world that we all share together.
Watch the trailer below.
The Last Two Lovers At The End of The World will debut on DIRECTV NOW, Friday, Dec. 1.Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami