Our last day of the 2018 Mosaic World Film Fest is Sunday, August 26th. This will be our annual Feature Sunday and all of the feature films for the 2018 MWFF will be screened during this afternoon.
We will kick things off Sunday with a terrific new documentary from director Jesseca Ynez Simmons.
I Can Only Be Mary Lane
Screening on Sunday, August 26th from 11am – 12:00pm
Born in 1935, Chicago singer Mary Lane is one of the last living legends of American Blues. If only the world knew.
A longtime staple of Chicago’s West Side Blues circuit, singer Mary Lane was born November 23, 1935 in Clarendon, Arkansas. After honing her skills in local juke joints in the company of Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Nighthawk, Little Junior Parker and James Cotton, Lane relocated to Chicago in 1957; backed by Morris Pejoe, she soon cut her debut single “You Don’t Want My Lovin’ No More” for the Friendly Five label. A favorite among peers for her dulcet tones, she nevertheless did not record again for several decades, remaining virtually unknown outside of the Chicago Blues faithful.
At 82, Mary Lane is one of the last legendary Blues musicians that made the Great Migration from America’s south. Although Mary is widely respected in Chicago, she has never gotten the wider recognition she deserves. I Can Only Be Mary Lane follows Mary as she records just her second studio album and first in over 20 years. Her producer thinks it could potentially win her a grammy, if only they can get it done.
Director Biography – Jesseca Ynez Simmons
Jesseca Ynez Simmons is a filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago, IL. Originally from the Bay Area, she received her BA in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, followed by an MFA in Documentary Media from Northwestern University. Jesseca was a finalist for the 2016 ASC Vilmos Zsigmond Award and a 2015 Southern Exposure Film Fellow for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Birmingham, AL. In addition to directing, Jesseca works as a cinematographer and her images have been screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Hot Docs Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, DocLisboa, Sidewalk Film Festival as well as on National Geographic. Jesseca currently holds the Filmmaker in Residence position at Northwestern University.
What first drew you to pursue making this specific film project?
Answer by Jesseca Simmons, Director and Co-Producer:
Being a female filmmaker, I think I gravitated towards Mary because she is a powerful, inspirational and resilient woman. Seeing her perform and live the Blues has really touched my life and compelled me to make a film about her. The film I was originally set out to make featured Mary as an expert on the West Side Blues scene in Chicago that has faded away. I realized I really wanted to make a film about Mary and found myself drawn to Mary’s story. She was born in 1935, has experienced so much and it comes out in her music.
What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process and why? Any examples or stories about this from your project screening at the 2018 MWFF?
Answer by João Queiroga, Co-Producer:
My favorite part of documentary filmmaking is to bring to the forefront stories that the world should know. In I Can Only Be Mary Lane we encounter Mary, an extremely resilient woman and a phenomenal singer. Her story reminds us to never stop dreaming, and her music is a testament to the beauty and authenticity of Blues. Beyond having the opportunity to share Mary Lane’s story, one of my favorite parts about working in this film was to have the opportunity to collaborate with the director and producer, Jesseca Inez Simmons. She has a vision and a heart like no other filmmaker that I have ever met. Thus, to have the opportunity to tell Mary’s story, share her music, and to work with Jesseca was truly a dream. I couldn’t be happier with the end result and I hope you all enjoy it!
What are some influences for you on this project and/or you as a filmmaker in general?
Answer by Collin Susich, Co-Producer and Sound Mixer:
My greatest influence for this project was my love of live music in general. My goal was to make sure viewers felt immersed in the intimate venue settings and are captivated by the performances of Mary Lane and the No Static Blues band using a hard hitting and evocative sound mix. As a musician myself, my main concern was that the film did justice to the talent of our subjects.
Let’s say you have a chance to screen one film (other than yours) for everyone in the world. What would it be and why?
Answer by Jesseca Simmons, Direct and Co-Producer:
This is such a hard question! I think it would change based on my mood or the day I’m having but I’d have to go with the documentary JODOROWSKY’S DUNE by Frank Pavich. It is about the version of DUNE Alejandro Jodorowsky never got a chance to finish. No matter what you practice, it’s a great film to watch to regain creative energy. I love that Jokorosky seeks out spiritual warriors, as opposed to collaborators when attempting to make a film. When working in documentary, I think this is particularly crucial. With I CAN ONLY BE MARY LANE, a film made with absolutely no budget and is made purely out of desire to tell this story, I think I found mine.
Fest tickets can be purchased online below or at mosaicfilmfest.com/attend.