#ShortFilmShoutout: 'Boxed' Takes Viewers On Henry 'Box' Brown's Harrowing Escape To Freedom
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Film , News , Short Films

#ShortFilmShoutout: 'Boxed' Takes Viewers On Henry 'Box' Brown's Harrowing Escape To Freedom

This is installment #23 of Shadow And Act’s #ShortFilmShoutout series.

Warning: This short film features an allusion to sexual assault. 

Thanks to films like 12 Years a Slave and Harriet, more attention is being paid to slave narratives that haven’t been explored in mainstream media. Wanjiru M. Njendu joins this movement with her short film Boxed, a fictionalized account of Henry “Box” Brown’s journey to freedom by mailing himself from Virginia to Philadelphia.

The short film has qualified for FYC submission to the 2020 Academy Awards for Best Short Film – Live Action category. It is certainly worthy of recognition as it has already been featured at 50 festivals so far, with the list continuing to grow. Viewers will find that the short film, six minutes long, successfully recreates the tension, fear and despair Brown (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) must have felt during his unconventional and terrifying journey to freedom. Njendu’s cinematographer and co-producer Bongani Mlambo helped establish this fear visually with arresting close-ups of Henry’s face as terror and guilt at not being able to help other Black people in need (in particular a young woman who is raped by a white man) flash across his face.

Njendu says that she came up with the idea for the film after speaking with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Karyn Parsons, who created Sweet Blackberry, a company that creates animations to teach children about Black history. The first story Sweet Blackberry covered was Brown’s amazing journey.

“I latched onto the idea of telling Henry’s story, but as a psychological thriller with the audience in the box with him for the duration of the trip,” she wrote. “I thought inside the box.”

Whereas M’Cormack provides the on-screen presence for Brown, the rest of the cast provide their work in ADR sessions, with sounds designed to be added in post-production. Composer Dara Taylor and the voice cast, including Peres Owino, William Joseph Hill, Gregor Manns, Emerson Gregori and Mikey Kettinger, help to complete the experience of tension and fear.

With Boxed telling the story of Brown, it’s possible that a new path is being paved for filmmakers to explore more underrepresented slave narratives. Not only could this provide much-needed variety to a genre that is now in danger of becoming a trope of itself, but it could also give audience members a wider scope of how inhumane and emotionally scarring slavery actually was. Check out the trailer for Boxed below. You can help support Boxed via its GoFundMe page. You can also learn more about the film on its website.


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Black Filmmakers, Submit Your Film To #ShortFilmShoutout

Photo credit: Wanjiru M. Njendu

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