BBoy for Life Film Director/Producer Coury Deeb Risks His Life To Show the Impact Hip-Hop and BBoys have on Gun & Gang Violence
As you well know Hip-Hop is the greatest international cultural phenomena ever created. The art transcends race, culture, religion and ethnic backgrounds. It is the lifestyle of choice for millions of youth and young adults worldwide. Unfortunately the art is so often associated with violence, negative images and the disrespecting of women. Recently we heard about an international Hip-Hop Film entitled “BBoy for Life,” produced/directed by Coury Deeb. The documentary addressed Gang & Gun Violence in Guatemala and once we got a chance to view it we had to do this interview. Here is a film that was created by a talented, socially responsible film producer that has truly made his mark through this groundbreaking production.
We want to applaud Coury for giving Hip-Hop a good look and we take our hat off to him for being bold enough to go into the “Belly of the Beast” and bring us back a positive product that can be used as a platform to help address the issues of Gun & Gang violence worldwide. Our 3rd annual “Hip-Hop Against Gun & Gang Violence Week” Campaign and Tour is from May 16thru September 1,2014, with “105 Power Events over 105 Power Days.” We will be using the film as an educational tool to save some lives by educating gangs and young citizens here in the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean and abroad about the dangers of gun and gang violence.
Thanks to this film we now have an opportunity to work with the United Nations and create a global committee that will be charged with finding some real solutions to the gun and gang violence problem. There are gangs like the MS 13 and the 18th Street Gang out of El Salvador, who some say are more violent than the “Bloods and the Crips” that are reaping havoc on the lives of innocent citizens. The question is what are we doing to seriously address the issue? Stay tuned for updates on this global initiative as we take the Hip-Hop Against Gun & Gang Violence Project to another level.
Illegal drugs help fund the activities of gangs and global terrorists. America is 5% of the world’s population but we consume 2/3 of the world’s illegal drugs. That’s right; we are the world’s biggest drug addict. We are our own worst enemy and if we could fix the failed “War on Drugs” we would have a real chance of solving the problem of gun and gang violence.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH FILM PRODUCER/DIRECTOR COURY DEEB
A: I live in the Northern-most Southern City—Louisville, KY. I grew up here, but moved away to live in the inner city of Philly for about 7 years. Once my wife and I began having kids, we moved back to Louisville where both our families live. We own a home in downtown Louisville.
Q: Give me some history of your Film background?
A: Originally, I was a photographer. I still am I suppose. Though most of my energy is focused on directing and producing, guarding the brand of Nadus Films and running the non-profit. In 2004, my wife and I became friends with a man by the name of Celestin. His organization was doing reconciliation work between governments and tribes throughout Africa. I approached Celestin asking how I might be able to serve with the skill of photography. He asked that I’d go and capture the stories of the people throughout the war-torn region of Sudan. Just a few months later I was on a plane and documenting the lives of the marginalized in Southern Sudan. I transitioned very quickly from still photography to motion film, knowing this is a stronger way to tell a story. I have some formal academic studies in photography, but all of my film-making is self-taught and inspired by various friends, mentors, etc. Coupled with a vigorous family background of entrepreneurs and the distinct drive to get things done, I’d like to believe I can accomplish most anything with the right team and patience. Since that conversation with Celestin, I’ve produced and directed 3 feature length films on multiple continents. My team and I are just getting started.
Q: How did you get started in the industry?
A: I fell into the industry out of a desire to serve those in need while having fun doing it. Nadus Films makes films that make a difference, and we do so out of a desire and conviction to impact cultures in the hopes of seeing hearts changed.
It began because I saw and was given an opportunity to serve with the skills that I had. I stepped up; I put myself out there and made myself vulnerable to chase an unknown dream. I wasn’t sure about anything other than I wanted to use what I was good at to serve. I had no expectations other than to serve sacrificially and try to have a good time in doing so. I’ve found that this method is both rewarding for those being served and the one serving. Much more sustainable. I learned quickly that comfort was and is the enemy of greatness.
Q: What projects have you worked on before your most recent film?
A: Prior to the film BBOY for LIFE I worked on 2 other film projects entitled “The New Sudan” and “Grace Surpasses.” Both shot in Sudan (different regions however) and both focused on the civil war and the effects that it had on the culture. The New Sudan is more of an educational doc, in other words, if you don’t care about what’s happening in Sudan you don’t have much business watching it. Grace Surpasses was a different beast all together. It’s a silent film, with only one word being spoken through the entire film (Grace). It’s a film with a powerful score that drives the emotion and silent dialogue. It’s taking on the more old school way of film-making. It was an experiment and one that has also garnered international distribution. With all that said, BBOY for LIFE is our flag-ship film and one we’re most proud about.
Q: Tell us about BBoy?
A: BBOY for LIFE was such a fun, sketchy and impactful project. Those are kind of the 3 pre-requisites Nadus Films seeks when determining any film project. The film is about 2 B-boys and one gangster whose lives collide in the midst of the ghettos in Guatemala City. Many B-boys (and B-girls) struggle in Guatemala City due to the pressure and violence of gangs. B-boy Cheez and B-boy Gato dance in their crew, the Poker Crew, and compete city/country-wide for the sake of expression, art and the desire to be part of something non-violent. Gato’s brother was shot and killed by gangs because he wouldn’t give up the names of the b-boys in his community. The threat there is real.
Our other character, Leidy, was hired to be our security guard. At the time of being hired, she was an active gangster and in prison. Hardly the resume you want for someone to watch your back while filming on the streets in some of the most dangerous ghettos in all of Central America. However, with the recommendation of some friends we had there in the city, we trusted their decision to hire her. When we landed for the first production trip, she was only 3 days out of prison. Being a security guard, Leidy was with us constantly both day and night. She learned our story, why we do what we do, as well as the story of the B-boys, which she never knew about. She learned how we combat evil with art, and how we tell stories. She was captivated and slowly became part of the actual story, not only protecting it.
What we ended up with inside our film’s development was nothing we could have ever scripted nor expected. BBOY for LIFE is a cinematic story that captures the hearts of the viewer because of the intensity of the subjects and the redemption found throughout their story. We will be releasing a soundtrack to the film. Gotten great reviews from it.
Q: What inspired you to do the film?
A: We’re always looking for jacked up social issues. When we find one, we ask our selves what impact could this have, how interesting is it and are we capable to tell it? For some, the life of gang banging is all they’ll ever know and understand. I get it. What’s unfortunate is how they’re robbed in their understanding of what reality is. They don’t realize it’s a false identity of worth, family and community. Gangs are wrong by promising false community. True hip-hop, specifically my fellow b-boy and b-girl’s in Guatemala, find greater worth through their own crews. Both subjects (gangs and b-boys) are interesting to watch and develop a story around, therefore we knew that not only would this film be a worthy story to tell due to the cultural impact it will have, but also because it carries a strong marketable approach to entertainment. Something necessary when desiring to make a great impact! During the scouting trip, we slept in the ghettos and spent time with the gangsters and b-boys.
We learned that not all gangsters are happy where they’re at and desire a better way of life. B-boy’ing could be one of those creative outlets that offer more of a family dynamic that isn’t based on fear, violence and intimidation. Perhaps nothing more than just setting a positive example. We saw a need, we discovered a story and we felt the conviction to put our lives at risk in order to respectfully tell their story well.
A: I was tattooed by Leidy on a rooftop overlooking Guatemala City. She tattooed me with a hand made prison style guitar string tattoo gun. Also I was in an alley with drunk/stoned gangsters to which they all had loaded guns. They shot of their guns during the interview.
Q: Did you get any support or resistance from the government?
A: None whatsoever. Wherever we go, we always try and fly low under the radar as to not ruffle feathers or make things more complicated. We’ve been detained/arrested multiple times in our line of work, but we’re always connected to the right people to expedite the steps that would otherwise hinder our work. During filming, we had the privilege of riding along with cops for night shifts.
Q: How can this film be used to help reduce gang violence?
A: This film is legit. There’s no coercion in its story-telling. No manipulation. Meaning, the viewer will watch it and see the main characters wrestle through some real hard choices. I believe due to the authenticity of this film, and the matter it takes on, that people will be able to relate and evaluate their own lives and make a change if they wish. Of course, we show the dark side of gangs (them confessing to torture, rape and murder) while we shine a brighter light on the peaceful side of dance and art in the hip-hop culture of Guatemala. So the dichotomy of those two worlds are clear, and the path of peace is promoted. I hope that the film will naturally impact culture and that hearts will change as a result of its success.
Q: We heard some of the Cast is coming to the U.S. Tell us about that?
A: We hope they’re coming to the U.S. Our desire is to host screenings of the film nationwide while incorporating live b-boy battles with the central characters. Cheez and Gato are amped and ready for things to happen, as well as Leidy. We’re looking forward to showing the film and introducing the central characters to the viewers, knowing that this will have great impact on our communities. Having a screening of the film in front of a large audience coupled with a live b-boy battle with the central characters then followed by a panel discussion will be nothing short of amazing.
Q: Give us your thoughts on the Hip-Hop Culture and why you used it in your film?
A: Unfortunately, I’m a product of the MTV generation (when it was music television). My stereo-types of the hip-hop culture were shaped largely by what I saw and experienced through media. MTV, and others, do a horrible job of promoting the culture by branding the hip-hop community as being thugs, violent, sexist & racist. And it’s not like I wasn’t around it growing up, yeah, I’m white, but I went to an inner-city public school for my entire life and lived in multiple ghettos throughout Philly. So I saw the impact some “hip-hop” influences had on our community. I liked the music, but I had reservations about what was behind it all.
I was surprised and impressed to learn about a different side, or maybe even the “real side” to the hip-hop movement while scouting in Guatemala City. I learned about B-boys/B-girls. They weren’t gangsters, or posers. Instead, they expressed themselves through the art of dance. They were a family, a tight group that didn’t rely on empty talk and in your face antics to make their points. It was a relief. I have a new and different respect for hip-hop. I was able to more easily look past the facade of hip-hop stereotypes, knowing there’s a better side to the movement that is way more impactful and appealing to the masses.
A: Awww hell, I don’t know. Should it? It’s not why I pursued the project. The only reason I’d like for it to continue winning awards is that more eyes would be on it, therefore more lives impacted. More Art. Less Evil. That’s my mantra. My focus is to continue producing work that I’m good at and be faithful in doing so. Whatever happens after that happens.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
A: I’ve been spending some time in India lately, looking at doing a film there on bonded labor. I have a heart for India. In addition to that, we’ve been approached to write treatments for a social justice TV series.
Q: How tough is the Film industry?
A: Toughness is relative. I guess it mostly depends on what you want to get out of it. If your definition of success is to win many film festival awards, win an Academy award, or get monstrous distribution, then you have a tough road ahead of you with more frustrating hurdles than you can imagine. If you’re in it because you know it’s your calling, and your desire is to impact culture through compelling, redemptive story-telling, then you can film in relative peace. I fall into this category. It’s not to say there aren’t a ton of obstacles and frustrations, but my focus is clear. Make films that make a difference. As long as I don’t jeopardize my convictions, compromise the brand or falsify a story, then I’m good. I have fun doing it. It’s rewarding. I’m content.
Q: What are your goals as a film producer?
A: To impact cultures through my work and have fun doing it. My desire is to serve with what gifts have been given to me (1 Peter 4:10). I like to take adventures, I like to engage culture and I like to build authentic stories from those experiences. Through the relationships we build, we’re able to produce stronger products. And it’s not just because this is the right thing to do, it’s what is in our blood. I don’t like fake relationships. It’s because of this position that my story-telling can breathe raw authenticity.
Q: What is your best and worst experience in the industry?
A: My best is by far the relationships that I continue to have with subjects from the film. I love learning how they’re doing, I love helping them through school and I love that viewers don’t stop at pressing play with our films. I love nothing more in knowing that our films are impacting culture.
The worst experience I have is film festivals. I love them and hate them. Some are a joke and some are legit. It’s a chess game, and it’s sometimes political, and it costs a lot of money and time. Like any chess game, if you like to play, and you move your pieces properly you can really enjoy the game. But if you’re not very good at chess, and you make mistakes along the way, it’s a miserable experience. We’ve experienced both games.
Q: What words of wisdom do you have for those looking to secure a career in the Film industry?
A: Identify your strengths/gifts in making films. Whatever you’re not good at (you have lots of things you’re not good at) work inside a team that can help strengthen your weak links. Always and continually be working on projects, whether you’re getting paid or not. You must create bad pieces of work in order to better understand what is good. This goes for all artists. Be humble. There are too many people that think they’re legit when they’re not.
More than anything, I would encourage people to tell stories that have some sort of impact. There’s too much work in our industry that looks good, but is so empty that at the end of it, you’re no better off than when you pressed play. I don’t think all films need a call to action, that’s unfair, but I think all works of art should inspire and ask questions that demand something bigger than ourselves.
Q: How does someone get in touch with you if they want to know more about your projects?
A: Check out our site www.NadusFilms.com. You can also check out my personal site www.MoreArtLessEvil.com. We have a newsletter you can email to sign up: info@NadusFilms.com. There’s plenty of content to keep you busy by visiting those above links.
The film will hit theaters on April 11th. There will be a Global Private Screening at the
United Nations on April 4, 2014. Check for a theater near you.
To view the trailer and/or for info on the film BBoy for Life visit www.BBoyforlifemovie.com or hit us up at: RandyKFisher@gmail.com for private screening dates, interviews of cast members and producers.
Posted by Charles Fisher and Randy Fisher (Twitter @HHSYC)