The award-winning film Little Music Manchild: The Malik Kofi Story will premiere at the 2017 BronzeLens Film Festival at the end of the month. The documentary tells the inspiring story of child prodigy Malik Kofi, a gifted young cellist from Birmingham, Alabama.
Now in its 8th year, BronzeLens organizers held their Media and VIP mixer last week where attendees were made privy to this year’s line up of selected films and presentations. Director of Little Music Manchild, former Emmy Award-winning television news anchor Malena Cunningham Anderson, was among the guests. She briefly spoke to UrbanGeekz about the film.
Cunningham Anderson first met Malik in December 2012 at the home of some friends hosting a fundraiser for him. “I almost didn’t go because I was trying to get ready for the holidays and go home to visit my family in South Carolina,” she said. However, chance circumstances placed her right upfront. When he entered the room, Malik’s unique presence was undeniable. Being a television news reporter, he really caught her attention. “I looked at him and said, who is this little manchild?”
She had to know more. After getting permission from Malik’s maternal grandmother Ruby Cox, Cunningham Anderson returned to Birmingham to follow the musical genius and his family. If she had any doubts before, she was certain now that this was a story that needed to be told.
The one-time news anchor sprung into action, becoming the writer, director, and producer of the production. Wearing many hats wasn’t difficult for her, she said. Her television news background helped her envision the project. She knew how to tell the story, the only thing she needed was someone to videotape it. Award-winning videographer Mario Eugene Page came onboard as the Director of Photography.
Malik and his family are at the heart of the story. They’re a large part of the reason the finished project caught the eye of BronzeLens, a weeklong Atlanta-based film and television festival for filmmakers of color in the United States.
“This is about an ordinary family; it’s not like they grew up and they were in the whole classical world,” Deidre McDonald, Artistic Director and head of the selection committee said. “So, there’s a twist to the story.” She said the film shows sacrifice, love, and support [from his older brothers to his grandmother who homeschooled Malik], an important component that captures the diverse narratives of black people.
The film follows the astonishing track of how Malik managed to acquire the musical artistry skills that would lead him to work with the finest music schools. McDonald continued, the young man is so highly regarded in the music world, it’s not like he’s a little good, he’s brilliant. “It really shows that with a lot of hard work and perseverance, what you’re able to achieve,” she said.
The film also features appearances by Craig Hultgren, former cellist with the Alabama Symphony; Dr. Frank Adams, Birmingham legend and renowned jazz musician; and Udi Bar David, cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
McDonald said that the film is very aspirational and with the BronzeLens festival, “we like to be able to inspire people, not just entertain but inspire.”
In fact, the film also shows Malik sharing his story with other inner city kids, who said they could really be doing more with their lives, after hearing him speak.Cunningham Anderson is hoping that every viewer of his story gets the same takeaway.
“This is truly a message of inspiration. We hear too much in the news of inner city African-American kids who have no hope, who have no future. The stories are always negative,” she said. Malik’s story is obliviously much different.
Despite Malik coming from a family that lived modestly, he was able to enrich his life. “They weren’t poor by any means; they just didn’t have means,” she said. But yet, their whole spirit and vibe is positive, rich and full. It just shows that “You may be in a situation but you don’t have to be of it. You can rise above it,” Cunningham Anderson concluded.
After working on the Little Music Manchild, Cunningham figured she should start her own production company. Called NewsLady Productions, she is continuing coverage of stories of ordinary people who are doing unique and interesting things in their lives.
Aside from being selected to screen at BronzeLens, Little Music Manchild has just won the first Award of Merit from the ImpactDocs competition in LaJolla, California. It has also been selected for inclusion in the upcoming International Black Film Festival in Nashville.
Little Music Manchild has been selected for screening at the BronzeLens festival on Saturday, August 26 at 1:00 pm at the Auburn Research Library. Log on to bronzelens.com for ticket information.