‘BLACKBIRD’ Savannah Screening: locally produced Oscar-qualifying film, sheds light on mental and physical health

Behind the scenes on the making of "BLACKBIRD"

A deeply personal story of connection, understanding, and vulnerability surrounding mental health struggles comes to life in the locally produced Oscar-Qualifying Award-winning short film “BLACKBIRD.”

The non-profit PROJECT BLACKBIRD is hosting a premiere screening event of the film and talk back activity following the screening on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. at NCG Cinema in Savannah with alternate screenings following on Oct. 23 – 29. Proceeds from the screenings will go to the Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund.

“The film is based on my own true story. I had been out of treatment for a few years. Back in 2018, I was at an eating disorder treatment center in Southern California, and I had met a young woman there that changed my life,” said Alexandra Miles, star and producer of the film “Blackbird” and founder of the non-profit PROJECT BLACKBIRD.

The woman that changed Miles’s life is Kendra Williams, who she called “Blackbird” because she had a tattoo of a blackbird on her neck. Williams is who Miles met while in treatment and they were roommates.

“Since 2018, we remained in each other’s lives. We weren’t incredibly close at the time of writing it, but I quite literally thought of her almost every single day. She was a huge piece of my recovery, just the connection that I had with her,” said Miles.

The film, about two young women and their recovery at an eating disorder treatment center, aims to expose what lies behind the disorder that plagues millions, as well as demonstrate the importance of connection with oneself, and with each other.

Miles was in grad school at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) at the time of creating this film. There she met Morgan Davies, a writer in the film and TV program at SCAD.

“Her writing was incredible, beautiful. I went to her, and I asked if she would be willing to write and direct a story for me. I pitched to her was the story of this young woman, Kendra, who I called ‘Blackbird.’ I asked her to write this story of a woman who was inspirational and very different than myself,’ said Miles.

Miles explained to Davies that she wanted her to tell a story the of connection between a character based on herself and the character based on Williams which is the story of a connection between two young women who seemingly could not be more different but find out that they have more in common than they could have ever realized.

“Through that connection, they begin to find the ability to be vulnerable, the ability to voice what they’re ashamed of, voice the struggles that they’re going through, and then ultimately start to rid themselves of that shame and rid themselves of their struggles because of their ability to be vulnerable with each other,” said Miles.

To help aid in telling the story Miles even provided Davies with her journal that she wrote while in treatment. In addition to that Miles touches on how there were similarities and differences in William’s experience being an African American woman.

“I spoke with Kendra a lot. She voiced to me time and time again about how her silence came from shame. Shame surrounding the disorder, depression, and shame of being the only person that she knew in her community to have gone to treatment, to have had an eating disorder, to vocalize about her mental health struggles, said Miles.

Now Williams is an advocate for fostering conversations that destigmatize mental illness within African American and other underrepresented communities. She recognizes recovery to be the most essential aspect for living a purposeful and authentic life.

The non-profit PROJECT BLACKBIRD uses the film “BLACKBIRD” as a springboard for conversation around mental health and eating disorder topics. They specifically aim to encourage conversation within the Black community and other minority communities where there are stigmas present surrounding mental health discussion.

“Project Blackbird began after a friend asked me, ‘what do I want to do with this film?’ I created this film to help others but there’s so much more that I can do with the film to help others,” said Miles.

PROJECT BLACKBIRD has reached 2,000 people and counting and has recently screened at the Lumiere Cinema Theater in Los Angeles, has been featured at the National Eating Disorder Associations yearly convention, and has visited High Schools and Colleges across the States.

“The underlying theme that I wanted to communicate is connection. I want my audience to understand the truth that lies beneath eating disorders, because it’s not all about the food,” said Miles.

For tickets for the movie screening on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. and alternate screenings following on Oct. 23 – 29 go to the Savannah location at ncgmovies.com

About The Author

Kareem McMichael

Kareem McMichael is a filmmaker, documentarian, writer, and multimedia content creator. The Macon native enjoys entertainment, and sharing with locals and visitors’ stories about Savannah’s art and culture scene. When he is not working, he enjoys relaxing at the beach, grabbing a drink, hitting a fun art event,...
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