For a woman of a certain age out here in these online dating streets, Felicia Pride’s short film “Look Back At It” is painfully funny, because so much of what 40-something single Baltimore mom Lanae experiences is the stuff of margarita-fueled nightmares.
Even better is recognizing people who look like me on screen in a way I don’t usually see myself. It’s not about violence or crime, but just about normal middle-aged Black lady stuff, with a Royal Farms chicken reference.
And it’s delightful.
“We don’t see Baltimore in this way. We don’t see us just living, just in extremes,” explained Baltimore native and Milford Mills High School graduate Pride, whose 11-minute film, made as “a love letter” to the Black women at the heart of her life and of this city, will be the centerpiece of Saturday’s Honey Chile Fest at Enoch Pratt Public Library’s main branch on Cathedral Street.
Besides the film, the event will feature a live recording of Pride’s NAACP Image Award-nominated podcast “Chile Please” with co-host Ivy Grant; a screening of “Defining Baltimore,” a series of shorts curated by Nia Hampton of the Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival; and an afterparty. Because it’s Baltimore, and we will always have an afterparty.
The festival’s name is a reference to Honey Chile, Pride’s production company, which is dedicated to creating content with 40-plus Black women in mind. “Look Back At It” is firmly in the wheelhouse, following Lanae on her journey to get back a groove she doesn’t think is gettable. You may recognize Moore as the woman behind “One Margarita,” the bawdy song of the summer, and the film is equally funny, sex-positive and real.
Shot at Pride’s aunt’s house, with several family members and friends enlisted as part of the production, the movie was inspired by her mother, sister and niece. “I wanted to show the intergenerational relationship between Black women, representing all the aunts and nieces and sisters who love hard and work hard,” she said. “They give so much of themselves at the end of the day that there’s not a lot left of themselves.”
Boy, do I relate to that. I am currently back on the dating apps at 52, and it’s mostly a clown show, amusing, in a depressing and weird way. I’m in a demographic that is always thanked for trying to, say, save democracy, but not as popular as partners. The culture seems to believe that my job is to endure, not to enjoy. I’m over it. And so is Pride.
“We don’t talk about Black women’s desires. It’s just about survival,” she said. “Can we talk about joy and laughter? In the backdrop of what it is to be Black in America, we don’t necessarily lead with that. We want to lead with laughter. I want to be about the things that actually have helped Black people not only survive but thrive.”
And sometimes, we thrive in the face of tragedy with humor. Pride mentioned the recent epic Montgomery, Alabama, incident between drunk racists on a pontoon boat who attacked the Black co-captain of a tour boat trying to dock, and the Black bystanders who were not having it and came to his defense. The number of memes that sprouted up afterward is indicative of “how funny we are” and how we use humor to cope with the trauma of being Black in America, Pride said.
“We also see how people want to police our joy, like when we’re loud in a space,” she added. “They can’t wrap their heads around how they haven’t broken us, how we can continue living despite everything happening in the backdrop of what is going on with our lives, living outside the white gaze.”
I was curious about the provenance of the “Honey Chile” in the festival’s title, and asked Pride if it was a play on HonFest, the traditional Baltimore celebration of working-class Charm City women with big attitudes and hair to match in Hampden. The contrast is, of course, that Hons are traditionally white, in an area that, when I was growing up, was specifically unfriendly to Black people.
“It’s not about Hons, but I love that!” Pride said. Actually, her inspiration was the phrase “honey chile,” “two words with so many meanings for Black people. It can be a term of endearment, with ‘honey,’ or with ‘CHILE,’ it can be a term of endearment or it can be a warning. They’re two very Black words that mean so much.”
I had such a flashback when Pride said that, because we’ve all been trained to differentiate between when your mom is being sweet and when she isn’t playing. Part of the joy of “Look Back At It” is the recognition in one’s own life of the people onscreen, “the collective family — the play auntie, the collective raising, spending summers at different aunts’ houses and all the cousins in the basement, where anyone who reprimands you, you have to respect,” she explained.
Watching the 11 minutes of the short makes you want to know more about Lanae and her family, and hopefully we will. Pride made it, in part, to prove that the concept would work as a feature-length film. And judging by its reception so far — “Look Back At It” won the audience award at Philadelphia’s Blackstar Film Festival — maybe that will happen. If so, I hope RoFo makes it into the final version.