Fans of HBO’s "Random Acts of Flyness" might not know Naima Ramos-Chapman by name, but they are familiar with her artistry. The filmmaker and actress drew on her experiences as a Black Latinx woman to inform the surrealist series’ musical segment "Nuncaland." Issuing challenges to patriarchy and racism pervades much of her work, which she discussed with Nylon magazine yesterday (September 4).
‘And Nothing Ever Happened’ quietly devastated everyone who saw it and set @naimaramchap on course to be one of the most daring young directors around https://t.co/02up7wmCTs pic.twitter.com/QwI8mnsRP4
rnt— NYLON (@NylonMag) September 4, 2018
rntRamos-Chapman connects "Nuncaland," which confronts the ways Black and Latinx boys are encouraged to play rough and catcall girls, to her own upbringing:
I’m Puerto Rican and Black, I grew up in a Caribbean neighborhood, I grew up with Dominicans, was always around the Spanish language. Certain things I noticed, this machismo, how gender roles are calcified. The boys in the family would be catered to, moms be doing their laundry ’til they’re way too old. They’re given ways to play and never grow up. I even though about relationships I’d had: "You’re Peter Panning it." Why don’t you wanna grow up? But there’s a pro to it. If you’re never a man, you’re not responsible for what men do. I feel like a lot of men don’t want to take responsibility for what men do. Men are very quiet about male behavior now. I want people to reclaim these identities and expand them. You can destroy them if that helps, but what I don’t want people to distance themselves from [is] the patriarchy.
This quest to rewrite toxic rules also influenced her 2016 short film, "And Nothing Happened." Ramos-Chapman stars as a woman who is traumatized by a sexual assault. She explains that the film grew out of her own quest to heal from sexual violence, as well as a broader rape culture she wishes to upend:
There’s this place of dreaming that needs to happen in order to get out of trauma. It’s a very creative space. After my assault, I felt like there was a lot of personality reformation happening. Once you realize the world is not what you thought it was. You have to dream to survive. You create culture, you imagine…. We talk about ending rape culture and what they usually mean is sexual assault and rape. And we have to end those, but there’s a whole spectrum that gets skirted around because it’s not black and white. Power dynamics and privilege, the exchange of money, no means no, body language, how women are supposed to be responsible for communicating clearly in a way that a man understands. There’s so much unspoken that men need to understand and be conditioned to get so they can’t say, "Oh I didn’t see the signs."
She further pursues these themes in her latest film, "Piu Piu." In it, the protagonist encounters a series of supernatural horrors in New York City’s streets and subways while seeking personal freedom. Ramos-Chapman says the film draws on an experience with a street predator and the unique danger she feels as a Black woman in those situations:
This was specifically this guy in broad daylight, and I have to go through this whole routine of: What am I gonna do? What made me most angry about this particular stalking experience was that he wouldn’t give up. That was a level of entitlement I’d never seen before. I’ve seen people give up. This was weird. It was very affirmed, there was no question this person was following me, it was unrelenting, and he had no shame about it. It was in Times Square, it was super-busy, no one could see I needed help, I didn’t even think to ask for it, because you do feel very alone and isolated in New York when you’re dealing with violence. The film was about my feeling very strongly about killing this person. I thought about it more, thought about the anxiety and stressors of being a Black woman considering different escape routes. I’ve had a lot of conversations about [how], if you’re in a situation and you’re not close to the door, you’re thinking of 10 ways out. If you’re in a space with a guy, doesn’t matter what he looks like, you’re always on edge and on alert. I wanted to capture that.
Read the full article about Ramos-Chapman’s life and work at Nylon.com.