by director Carlos López Estrada
When Summertime arrives on theater screens in July, it will be a little over two years since we first began day-dreaming about this impossible film project. The world has drastically changed since then, and so have we. To have arrived at this moment in time feels like an impossible victory in so many ways. This has been the most difficult year in most of our lives, and it seems significant to commemorate it by releasing this film, which albeit being one of the most rewarding creative experiences, it has also been the most difficult undertaking for many of us involved. I sure hope that the love we have for this movie permeates out of the screen and reaches anyone who, like myself, needed to hear these powerful voices.
In May of 2019, I attended a poetry showcase organized by Get Lit: Words Ignite, a literary non-profit created to empower Los Angeles youth through literature. Twenty-seven young artists stood in front of me and delivered a feast of powerful spoken word poetry about themselves and their communities. I came home that night feeling deeply moved and with the realization that I had to do everything within my power to share that miraculous experience with as many people as I could.
Summertime was conceived in a small Koreatown office with those 27 poets and a handful of filmmakers, who I consider my close collaborators. The prompt was deceivingly simple: to write a love letter to Los Angeles through the collective voice of the poets—an experiment in community storytelling. Each of them included a piece of writing that defined their relationship to the city, and as a result, created a mosaic of stories that defined the city itself. We pieced the script together over a summer workshop and in August, only three months after the idea was initially presented to them, we were filming the movie in neighborhoods all across the city of Los Angeles. Most of the cast had never been in front of a professional film camera and many of them decided to bring their friends and family into their scenes. Every moment of this experience was immersed in total chaos, but in this chaos we were able to find truth—something that we would have never found had we structured this like a traditional film.
Perhaps accidentally, by creating a map of their city, the poets have also created a manual on how to exist in it: fearlessly; with kindness, honesty, vulnerability, awareness, responsibility… and hope. The kind of hope that has eased much of the roughness of the past year. The kind of hope that I believe can truly change lives. Although it is my great joy to introduce you to our beautiful little film, it is an even greater joy to introduce you to this community of exceptional poets. I hope you continue to find excuses to keep their voices present in your lives.
Posted June 25, 2021