Nine-Nights is a funerary tradition practiced in the Caribbean. It is an extended wake that lasts for several days.
Solomon, a man haunted by his father and the twisted ideals he instilled within him. He is forced to reconnect with his successful younger brother- Andre over the Nine-Night celebration. Solomon’s eczema begins to worsen as the tension between the brother rise.
The film tackles themes of black masculinity and how the expectations of society influence how they are seen as a child to the men they later become.
I decided to tell the story of Cocoa Butter Kisses after losing my father as a child, and over the years having the emotional with myself to overcome my own pain. Being a young black man from Caribbean origin, I was brought up and presented different images of what is expected of me being a young black man.
The main character in the film, Solomon, has a similar experience to me as he is grieving the loss of his father however unlike my father. He was taught these twisted lessons of what is expected of him as a black man and to bottle his emotions in this world who hate and fear him.
Also similar to myself Solomon suffers from the skin condition of eczema. The condition caused me to self-destruct both physically and emotionally. I want to present the idea that the connections we have with love ones are more than skin deep. I want to present an authentic and new look at grief and trauma using the traditions of my Caribbean culture of the ‘Nine Nights’ as a capsule to tell the story.
Cocoa Butter Kisses explores ideas of black masculinity and grief. Taking a deeper look into how in a world where black men are presented with these images and expectations, and how these images and expectations shape who young black boys grow into being.
Solomon’s eczema is the external representation of all of the repressed pain black men carry every day. It’s something I personally have struggled with as have millions of black men around the UK.
The look and feel of Cocoa Butter Kisses will be one that uses warmer colour tones and subtlety as a means to create an uninviting and tense atmosphere. Although complementary warm colours such as yellow, orange, brown, and green are generally more associated with amiable and inviting feelings, for this film these colours will be warped to reflect the duality of the film that includes more sickly and uneasy images.
Lighting will also enhance the uninviting and emotionally cold feel of the film. The plan is to design for the shadows to create a low-key lighting scheme where the few light sources present are practically motivated fixtures in the room and green moonlight from the windows. The reoccurring use of silhouettes throughout the film will not only fit within the low light atmosphere but will also fit the story. With silhouettes, you lose some detail in expression as it is masked by shadow. This unconsciously alludes to how Solomon copes with past pain: by masking it, hidden under layers of projected strength.
Overall, this film will aim to emulate different stylistic elements from cinematographers such as Nina Yang and from films such as Moonlight (2016), Hereditary(2018), 1985 (2018) and She’s Gotta Have It (1986).
We will use the smaller set to our advantage by allowing the walls to trap the characters further within the frame. The two brothers are forced to stay in their recently deceased father’s home as part of their mourning traditions and consequently forced to confront their conflicting relationships with their father and each other. By visually representing this feeling of claustrophobia and isolation from their everyday lives, we can draw a parallel between the control the father had over the son with the control of the house they are forced to reside in for 9 days.
The use of mirrors is another way in which self-reflection and projecting ones own fears will come across visually through the cinematography. Filming the space and the characters through mirrors forms another layer of perception from which the audience views the story. The audience is granted a moment of illusion in which they may be able to see from the character’s point of view.
Every aspect of the cinematography will be shaped in service to the story because having the story come across in the meaningful way it was initially intended is the priority for this film.
The focus through production design is to explore the themes of loss and masculinity through the environment. The flat is a character of its own as it is representing the father’s character/personality without his presence being there. With the film covering issues of black masculinity and grief, we will be drawing inspiration from social realist (mainly British) films and tv also artists and photographers. Taking huge influence from ‘Top Boy’ (2011-, Bennett, R), ‘The Last Tree’ (2019, Amoo, S) and ‘Moonlight’ (2016, Jenkins, B) as they cover themes of loss and pressure of masculinity around a working-class family. These films and tv shows are realistic and gritty combining the infusion of culture and the difficulties faced which I aim to recreate through the set. The film will be based in the council flat of the recently deceased father of Solomon and Andre.
We want to bring to life the character of the father and the deterioration of the father’s health and mental state in his late-life with the infusion of his heritage and culture as well hints that this was the character’s childhood home through the set. The colours, space and props will be creating an environment that shows a man who was stuck in his ways, lives alone, never moved and is in touch with his culture. As Solomon and Andre had different relationships with their father this will also be represented in the production design with Andre being favoured more. Overall, the flat will be lived in, old, beaten and will take on a character of its own.
Much of our focus for this film will be on the creation of eczema through special effects makeup. Given time constraints and high definition of film, we are planning on using bondo pieces to create eczema although we will need to experiment with our techniques. The eczema effects’ appearance will vary in severity to show the passage of time and how fresh his wounds are with some appearing minor and others having an element of body horror. For Andre and Solomon, we will keep the face makeup natural with a focus on skin care to fit their characters however Solomon may also have oil markings to show his job as a mechanic. Overall, we want the characters to look fresh and fit the look of contemporary men.
The focus for this film is for costume is for it to reflect the character’s journey throughout the film. To reflect Solomon’s journey during the nine night’s as his state begins to deteriorate and he loses his grip on himself. Juxtaposed to his brother. Both reflecting two sides of their father as they come to head.
The focus for any editing project is for the feature to make sense. This will be achieved visually, through shot selection and movement. The pacing for the feature will be decided on the intensity of the scenes and the length of shots. Solomon will be the focus throughout the feature so plenty of coverage for him will be necessary. The narrative comes first but inclusion of the themes will also be considered upon shot selection.
Our aim is to create an audio-scape which complements the visuals seen on screen. Although most of the story telling is told through the scars and eczema patches on the main character Solomon, the use of sound will be to heighten the already uncomfortable, the abrasion of the skin as Solomon tears at himself.
The house, as the statement for production design alludes to, is a central character as well. With the colours and various cultural heritages being represented within the set there must be an aura of abandonment as if something otherworldly is infiltrating the walls. With these thoughts the sound of the house will reflect a metaphorical silence where silence might appear to hear or feel weighted. The moment before a storm is often described as having an eerie silence therefore our motives are to (within the film) have a persistent “off-ness” were the present collides with a contorted apparition of the past.
I’m Joel, the writer and director of Cocoa Butter Kisses. I just like telling stories and working with my friends to tell those stories. I’ve always been told that film is a reflection of our own world. I strongly disagree with this statement. I rarely see people like me portrayed in nuanced, complexed and interesting ways. As a filmmaker, I want to explore representation, so the world of film better reflects the colourful world we live in. Especially for myself being a young black man from north London I want to show an audience there is more to people beneath the surface. As a director is someone who gives the unspoken a voice in film. Cocoa Butter Kisses comes from the story of my own grief of losing my father as a child. With also being a young black man from Caribbean origin, I was brought up and presented different images of what is expected of me being a young black man. I’m looking forward to telling this story and exploring the unspoken ideas of black masculinity in today’s western world.
I strongly believe everything we create has a meaning behind it, whether we know it or not. I have been creating films and videos since I was young, each project opening me up to an abundance of new knowledge. As I’ve gotten older, I understand more and more the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Cocoa Butter Kisses highlights the detrimental of toxic masculinity and how it’s destroying the mental health of men all over the world. I want people to watch our film and know it’s okay to speak out, it’s okay if you feel stuck in your own skin and to know there is always someone who will be there to listen. I want to make positive changes with the stories I work on, inspiring those who watch.
I’m Onur! The co-producer and 1st AD of CBK. I’m a producer here at AUB and I’m very excited to be working with Joel again. Working with Joel is always a treat as the films he creates explore very relevant and meaningful topics that need to be spoken about. In a time where our generation is speaking out more about the negative topics of the world that are so frequently ignored, films like Cocoa Butter Kisses are very much needed to not just raise these issues and get people talking but also to inspire other filmmakers our age to speak up and use their medium to impact the world in a positive manner. I look forward to seeing and helping Joel transform his vision from script to screen.
My name is Sofia Rasmussen and I am the Director of Photography for Cocoa Butter Kisses. Originally from Houston, Texas, I moved to the UK to study film production and have plans to pursue camera/cinematography work in London. For Cocoa Butter Kisses, our goal is to create a film where every aspect is deliberate and carries meaning beyond aesthetic purposes. I was drawn to working on this film in particular because of its subtle yet intriguing style but also because of the issues it intends to bring to light- issues not often confronted. The topic, while not immediately relatable to me personally, is something that I believe will resonate with a lot of people. And I can contribute to making the film meaningful and digestible to everyone, regardless of any personal connection to the core themes.
Hi, my name is Alex Man, and I am the Production Designer for Cocoa Butter kisses. You can see my initial influences and ideas under the ‘Production Design’s Vision’ section where I have drawn inspiration from Top Boy, Moonlight, Fish tank, Only Fools and Horses, Neil Kenlock and Deana Lawson to create a set which reflects the reality of the mental and physical state sick older people living alone face. Exploring the environment as the sons return to clear through his belongings and practice the funerary traditions of Nine Nights. Through the colour palette, environment and props I will convey the sense of the father’s presence as well effect he had on the character’s wellbeing and relationships. Working on this film, I believe we will be able to bring to light the overwhelming issue of pressure on black masculinity and the effect of grief and loss. I’m excited to work on this film and help bring to life the director’s vision and be a part of telling this story which can be relatable to so many.
My name is Thomas Antoniw and I will be working as and part of the Sound Department. This project will offer a new interpretation into a family dichotomy and the expectations of one generation to another. In mind of some of these themes and ideals, the sound department wishes to explore them in their entirety and further. Although they might have more relevance with script and camera they’re affects are prevalent to sound. From breath and footsteps to the sounds of the house, they all need to reflect more than their individual parts onto the audio-scape.
Throughout exploring audibly stimulating films there are a few to mention briefly as inspirations. Those would be The Woman In Black (1989) by Herbert Wise and The Thing (1982) by John Carpenter. Both exhibit secluded locations where haunting scores and atmospheres keep the watcher on edge as soon as the foreign object, one being a ghost the other an alien, enter the peripherals of the characters in each respective location.
The Sound Department will be pursuing a similar but unique tone to the film Cocoa Butter Kisses. I am very exited to present this film alongside this fantastic team. I’m sure the final result will be an experience to be remembered.
Jacob. Editor. I have the rare ability to create magic out of my fingertips. Mortals refer to me as ‘The Wizard!’ (This is a lie). In all seriousness though, my job is simple, to piece together the feature. You can look at me as the glue of the project, sticky and good at my job (humble as ever). This project greatly excites me as I feel the story is strong as well as the important themes included throughout the feature. I look forward to creating an edit with impact and substance as well as working alongside the many brilliant names and faces all contributing to making this film a success.
I’m James Lau and I study film production at AUB. I have started exploring the world of filmmaking by creating visual elements that tell a story behind-the-scenes of a camera. Ever since I bought my first camera in my teenage years, I realised that it had caught my attention and I was encouraged to go out and explore different varieties of techniques that made me learn something I have a passion for. Since being at AUB, I have been educated through several great things that I unpredictably thought I’d do, such as putting my technical and creative ideas that I have developed into practice. I enjoy working very closely with talented and aspiring individuals that create a sense of community, collaboration, networking and creating new relationships. Working on this film as a camera operator, I was instantly intrigued by the emotionally captivating story, which reminded me of experiences I have had myself. I think the best stories come from true experiences which makes reality so unique to envision what people go through and visualise themselves for the sole purpose of storytelling. I am confident that this film will help me achieve a unique visual style through the use of expressive camera techniques
Hi, I’m Faye and I’m the Gaffer on this film! I’m a 3rd-year film student and am specialising in cinematography and production design. My main focus on this production will be lighting the set and trying to help bring the director and the DOPs vision to fruition. I’ve grown up around film sets, seeing lighting teams paint beautiful sets with light and have always wanted to partake in bringing peoples creative visions to life, and I hope to achieve that with the crew on this film.
My name is Caitlin and I am one of the makeup artists for Cocoa Butter Kisses. Having worked on a few of Joel’s other films, I was super excited when he brought me his ideas for the film and welcomed me onto the crew. As a makeup artist, it is always fun when I get given a script that allows for both traditional screen makeup and special effects makeup and this is something I’m eager to get my teeth into on this film. Not only will Cocoa Butter Kisses open doors for me to experiment with eczema effects but its also a great opportunity to work on a diverse cast- something I have enjoyed about working on Joel’s films in the past. With such an awesome crew I feel so lucky to be a part of telling a story I think will resonate with a lot of different people in the current era.
I’m Jacob, and I’m one of the makeup artists working on Cocoa Butter Kisses. I mostly have experience with practical makeup FX, doing things like little scars and bruises all the way up to large scale injuries and monster/character transformations. But most of my work over the last five years has been based on fictional or historical effects, so to be asked to work on something that mirrors the possible everyday life of somebody in modern times is going to be fascinating. When I saw Joel’s ideas for the film, to recreate eczema of various severities, I was intrigued. The requirements of the film effects mean that I’ll be breaking out some of my favourite makeup methods, and I cannot wait to get started on making this film as real and hard-hitting as I reckon it deserves to be.
I am a 3rd-year costume student at AUB, specialising in costume design for film and theatre. Previously I have worked with BU and AUB’s Performing Arts Society, Bournemouth Film School, and, most recently, Jacob Trup’s short film What We’d Like From You, 2019. My passion is using costume as a medium for visual storytelling, and this is what I hope to achieve through my designs. In Cocoa Butter Kisses we have two very distinct characters in the brothers Solomon and Andre, and as the costume designer, I will be finding ways to communicate their backstories through the clothes they wear.
We reached out to artists to create a postcard design that shows positive mental heath to them. With these postcards we want to bring joy and light through art, reminding us all to find the positives in life. We want people to keep these designs and put them in places all over their room/home/work place, feeling uplifted when they see them.
Due to the personal subject matter, if we reach over our expected target, we will be giving the excess to Prostate Cancer UK as they provide support for men’s mental health. 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. Your donation will not just help us make our film but help us change the minds of a new generation. We now place the power to do that in your hands.