BY FRANCESCA LEWIS
We hear about so many crowdfunding projects these days, you might be tempted to overlook this one. It’s not for the movie sequel to a beloved TV show, it’s not for a trailblazing singer with legions of fans and it has nothing to do with potato salad. Most of you have probably supported a campaign or two, but how do you choose? Are you more drawn to help fund your faves, donate to social justice causes, pledge for the tees/posters/custom handmade signed and numbered schwag? Right now, crowdfunding functions best when an audience already exists for your product, but how willing we are to take out our wallets reveals what we as a society deem valuable?
Acclaimed short film maker Ka’ramuu Kush is raising funds for his debut feature on Indiegogo. The title: “as the FREAK takes you.” The pitch: An independent film that explores an omnisexual woman’s right to choose 1, 2, 3 or more lovers. The goal: $100,000. Why should you care? Because you want more diversity in film and this is how we make it happen.
When was the last time you saw an indie movie starring people who weren’t mostly white? It’s OK, don’t be shy, I know there’s a diversity deficit out there.
How about a spiritual indie movie about queer issues made by a black filmmaker, about a black, sexually liberated woman? Kush is not impressed by the current representations of Black characters available to us, saying that they “tend to be reactionary to a culture that denies their existence, in denial of their own cultural distinction or they’re just perfunctory.” Here he cites the black friend with sage advice, a trope I think we all have seen quite enough of. He feels that these representations “lack dimension and complexity.” Enter Summer Hughes.
The film’s protagonist seems to be the core of the film, an intriguing woman, partly based on jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. Kush describes her as omnisexual, rather than queer or pansexual, saying “omnisexual doesn’t judge nor distinguish.” The film will see her grapple with the challenges that go along with this “omni” identity, dealing with false binaries like privacy/hiding, rules/guidelines, man/woman.
You may be wondering what the film’s title is all about and this is the perfect time to bring it up. The phrase “as the freak take you” is an archaic use of the term “freak”, meaning “to change your mind arbitrarily or by whim.” Summer may seem to be acting on whim, and perhaps wants to believe this about herself, but as Kush explains, “When you think about it, nothing is arbitrary or by whim. Everything has a root cause whether we are aware of the cause and acknowledging of it or not. The question being posed is, how aware and accountable is she in her journey to better understand herself?”
As you can see, there is a lot going on here even the name Summer Hughes is a play on words. “There isn’t just one summer hue,” says Kush, “There are many. Omni.” As something of an antidote to the bland, unrepresentative people of color we generally see on the big screen, Kush wants Summer to be complex “with a vibrant and unapologetic humanity, virtuous and flawed, whimsical and profound.”
The profundity comes in the form of the film’s spirituality, which reveals another resonance for Summer’s name and chosen identity label. Kush points out, “Usually when you hear the term “omni” it’s in reference to a higher power or something ethereal. Omni is God.” This is a film not only about bringing complexity back to representations of Black people in cinema, not only about exploring philosophical/ethical questions in polyamory, but about sacred sexuality. Kush describes Summer’s love as “primal and celestial at the same time.” As the campaign page states, this is no ordinary freaky sex film!
Kush says that crowdfunding is the key to connecting with audiences and diversifying cinema, with “no middle men to blame for the stories we’re not seeing”. He believes that with the new freedom afforded by platforms like Indiegogo comes a power that we must learn to wield wisely. “What do you do with freedom when all you’ve ever known is subordination?” He asks, “There is an inherent responsibility in choice that a lot of us don’t know what to do with.” “as the FREAK takes you” is not a film I can imagine a room full of Hollywood execs giving the green light and yet audiences desperately want to see more complex and diverse representations of the human experience on screen. If we want to hear more diverse voices we have to be willing to help amplify them.
Francesca Lewis is a queer feminist writer from Yorkshire, UK. She writes for Curve Magazine and The Human Experience as well as writing short fiction and working on a novel. Her ardent love of American pop culture is matched only by her passion for analyzing it completely to death.