BFI London Film Festival – Jamil McGinnis & Pat Heywood’s short Gramercy

Live-Action Short Gramercy looks at mental health within the black community

Selected for BFI London Film Festival & AFI FEST

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Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood’s short film Gramercy examines a young black man struggling with depression. This topical short received its world premiere at the 2020 Locarno Film Festival, where Variety named it one of the festival’s not-to-miss shorts. It was also programmed by Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins at this year’s canceled Telluride Film Festival. Gramercy will premiere in the UK as part of the BFI London Film Festival in October.

Shaq, a young man grappling with depression, returns to his hometown in New Jersey, where his experiences with grief and brotherhood transform his environment into the vast landscapes of inner life.

Co-writers and directors Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood, who met five years ago working in advertising, collaborate under the moniker Seneca Village Pictures. The name was inspired by the little-known New York City settlement in the 19th century, where Irish immigrants and freed Black Americans owned land and coexisted in harmony. McGinnis, a Turkish and African American who lived in 13 different homes growing up on military bases, and Heywood, an Irish-American from Fall River, Massachusetts, figured the name fit like a glove. Gramercy is their fourth short film together, as well as their first foray into narrative. 

Utilizing a dreamy impressionistic structure, the film unfolds more akin to poetry than traditional American cinema, mirroring the subjective duality many people experience whilst living with depression. Cinematographer Maceo Bishop, who has shot projects with Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Steve McQueen, has worked under some of the greatest Directors of Photography including Roger Deakins and Rodrigo Prieto. Between his visual world (moving from color to black and white) and the musicscape composed by Zach “Shigeto” Saginaw, the threads of this cinematic language were sewn together. Shigeto has built a reputation as a world-renown talent that blends electronic, hip-hop, and jazz influences to create a one-of-a-kind ethereal sound.

Gramercy will be screening online as part of the BFI London Film Festival’s Secrets & Lies program, from October 7th to October 18th.  It will also be screening at AFI Fest from October 15th to October 22nd, as well as Hamptons International Film Festival from October 8th to October 14th.

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