After filmmaker Carlos Lopez Estrada directed the critically acclaimed spoken word-esque Blindspotting, he gained a massive appreciation for the art of poetry and verse thanks to its visionary film’s writers and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (the film has since become a TV series on Starz that are definitely worth a watch). From there, Estrada went on to co-direct Raya and the Last Dragon but he was still wondering what he was wondering what he was going to do for his solo directing project… and that’s when the spark for Summertime ignited.
Estrada went to a spoken word showcase which featured poets Gordon Ip, Tyris Winter, Marquesha Babers and 20-plus high school performers from the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Get Lit and he was floored.
“I was completely transported,” Estrada told Diaspora in a virtual roundtable. “I was entertained, I laughed and towards the end of it, my eyes were just so teary and my heart was so full.”
He added, “I was just in the presence of these young artists who were telling me more about my life and my world than anything else had.” Estrada said he stepped out of the showcase reinvigorated and falling in love with something worthy of exploring for his next movie.
Summertime was shot in 2019 and with a style built with similar energy as Richard Linklater’s Slacker, it weaves the work and poetry of these performers into a loose, interconnected narrative, allowing these minds express themselves and their relationship to the city of Los Angeles in the most authentic way possible via a hybrid of a musical and sociological art.
The conceptual feature made its debut at Sundance in its experimental NEXT section in 2020 and received critical acclaim. When Raya and the Last Dragon actress Kelly Marie Tran learned of the project, she was wildly impressed and re-teamed with Estrada to bring this masterful piece of cinema to the masses, presenting a fresh perspective on storytelling through kaleidoscopic verse. More than that, it paints a gorgeous — and subversive portrait of Los Angeles that we have never seen before.
Diaspora had the chance to chat with Estrada, Tran, Winter, Babers and Ip in a virtual roundtable to discuss Summertime, the intersection of art and activism, the evolution of spoken word and the impact and ambition of the film. Watch the conversation below.
The interview video was edited by Grant Ellis.
In addition to Winter, Babers and Ip, Summertime features performers and writers Maia Mayor, Austin Antoine, Bryce Banks, Lee Blankenship, Bene’t Benton and Jason Alvarez. The films words were also written by Dave Harris, Mila Cuda, Olympia Miccio, Amaya Blankenship Lee Blankenship, Bene’t Benton, Hanna Harris, Marco Bizio, Raul Herrera, Bryce Banks, Walter Finnie Jr., Anna Osuna, Zach Perlmutter, Jason Alvarez, Austin Antoine, Maia Mayor, Madyson Park, Xochitl Morales, Paolina Acuna-Gonzalez, Marcus James, Cyrus Roberts, Pathum Madigapola, Nia Lewis, Daniel McKinley, Khamal Iwuanyanwu and Lukas Lane.
Estrada produces alongside Kimberly Stuckwisch, Jeffrey Soros, Alisa Tager, Simon Horsman and Diane Luby Lane. Tran serves as executive producer with Neil Garvey, Patrick Murray and Andrew Blau.
Good Deed Entertainment will release Summertime in Los Angeles and New York on July 9 before expanding on July 16. Watch the trailer below.