Grant awarded to local filmmaker from the Louisville Film Society and Black Media Collaborative with funding from Rabbit Hole Distillery
By Sarah Levitch
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
Knowing Louisville is filled with hidden creatives in need of support, Kaveh Zamanian, founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery, recently approached Nathaniel Spencer of the Black Media Collaborative and Soozie Eastman of the Louisville Film Society to create a grant of $5,000 for a local Black filmmaker. We spoke to Zamanian, Spencer and Eastman to further understand their intent and hopes for the grant.
“The grant is inspired by my own creative journey. I took a creative leap to develop my whiskey recipes. Once you find what you love and muster up the courage to go down the rabbit hole, then there’s no going back. A rabbit hole to me is a magical, liminal space. It’s exciting and frightening at the same time; you feel exhilarated because you’re on the verge of something, but also scared cause you don’t know where you’re going to end up. That creative trip will bring you to life, allowing you to express your own voice, essentially to say something original.
I believe artistic expression, at its best, is a constructive way of bringing about conversation rather than violence. The grant is in the spirit of supporting creative voices in our community, and ultimately, will be a part of helping these creatives actualize their dreams.”
“It’s a stand of solidarity at this time. There is a lot of truth to it. I trust and care a lot about Soozie, and she’s genuine to me. I’m honored to be a part of it. I always want to give back to the community. I’m from the West End, so it’s an honor. This is a great way to expose the dynamic talent we have in the Black community of film and television.”
“This was an opportunity for us to reach out to the community to see which Louisville-based Black film directors have a well-developed short film that only needed funding to make it across the finish line. As a filmmaker myself, I know that funding can be incredibly hard to attain. Even a short film can cost a lot of money to make. Filmmaking can be super low-budget and accessible to anyone with a cell phone but, if you want something to be of the highest quality, paying for crew members and equipment requires a decent budget whether it’s for a documentary or narrative, short or long form.”
The grant recipient, Imani Dennison, is a Louisville — specifically Newburg — native. Studying Political Science and Photography at Howard University, Dennison discovered her passion for filmmaking, particularly documentaries focused on the “deliberation of Black people. Most of the documentaries I’ve made have been for Black organizations or on the history of Black people in a space and time.” Dennison prefers a non-traditional documentary style, favoring voiceovers and visuals over talking heads. We spoke to Dennison about her film, titled “Loulvul.” She commented, “Loulvul” is something that was birthed in my mind in 2018 when I realized I hadn’t made any work in Kentucky. I’ve been all over the world, but Louisville is the city that raised me. There’s nothing more beautiful than a Louisville summer, so much happens. The textures of childhood and experiencing this place as an adult really made me think that people need to know about this place. I started jotting down things I thought were important, and they all seemed to be related to Black culture. Originally, I wanted to make the film about the area I grew up in, Newburg, but there’s more to the city than Newburg.
I spelled it “Loulvul” to pay homage to the southern draw and how Louisvillians pronounce it. “Loulvul” is more than a documentary, it’s a meditation, a prayer, a portrait. Specifically, it’s Black culture. A lot of the time, especially growing up, when I say I’m from Louisville, people will ask, “There are Black people in Louisville?” The history is so rich in all of Kentucky, especially Louisville. African-Americans built the city. It’s important to talk about those things, where we are today and what different cultures and subcultures were birthed out of the madness and beauty of the city. How the neighborhoods came to be, our history of horse racing and jockeys, but also things that people don’t hear about, like the motorcycle races, the dirt bowl and our roller skate culture; these were giant moments for Black Louisville. I’m interested in the culture in small towns and I think that Louisville is monumental. This grant gives me a chance to say something about what I’ve experienced.”
With hopes to have a final cut in March 2021, Dennison imagines her film being played in interactive spaces at museums in Looavul, Luhvul, Loueville, Looaville, Looeyville, Louisville and Loulvul!
For more information about Imani Dennison’s film “Loulvul,” visit imaninikyah.com.