Meet Ciani Walker and her film, Misfits

Illustration by Serena Sacharoff/The Guardsman

By Colton Webster

cwebster1963@gmail.com

 

Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), is hosting events via Zoom to celebrate Women’s History Month with an emphasis on “honoring BIPOC lives and history.” One of the featured events was the March 3 screening of the award-winning film “Misfits,” the directorial and writing effort of Ciani Rey Walker. 

 

To date, “Misfits” has received several accolades including Best College Short from the Denton Black Film Festival, the Kathy Reichgerdt Inspiration Award from the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and Programmers Choice from the Film Pittsburgh festival. “Misfits” is Walker’s third directorial effort after her films “Silence” and “Dear Rose.”

 

Walker grew up in the affluent Playa Del Rey neighborhood of Los Angeles, an experience that influenced her filmmaking, particularly the characters saying, “There’s the quote unquote stereotypical black person but that’s not representative of us at all.”

Illustration by Serena Sacharoff/The Guardsman

“It’s given me a lot of perspective in just the African American diaspora in its entirety. I think that, especially in the media, Black people are just portrayed in one way. You know, [as] athletes or just overly ghetto,” Walker said. “I think that growing up here and interacting with actual Black people and seeing that we’re all so different.”

 

Her film “Misfits” portrays two sisters who learn their friend kidnapped a police officer on the night Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. “The two sisters and leaders of the Black Panther Party must set aside their differences to navigate one of the most turbulent nights in history,” the SRJC website said. 

 

After viewing, “Misfits’” writing, acting, imagery, and filming are all top notch. Although it’s a short, it seems like there is so much more to explore with the characters that were presented in the film’s near 20-minute run time. The film oozes 1960s flavor from the costumes to the dialect. It features references to Black Panther history like the peacock chair from Huey P. Newton’s famous photograph. Walker said she is developing a mini series out of the short with the hopes of it being picked up.

 

Walker said that her main inspirations for the film “are the historical figures [that the film is based around],” such as renowned activist and scholar Angela Davis, and Black Panther Party founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.  She added that she had researched the subject for six months prior to writing the first draft.

 

Although the film is inspired by actual events Walker joked, “Everything in the movie is fictitious! Do not sue me, anyone!”

 

Walker said that she “got lucky” by shooting the film prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. “I shot two weeks before the world ended,” she said. “I have scenes with 20 characters that wouldn’t have been possible if we had done it during COVID times.” Filming started on Valentine’s Day in 2020 and was shot over two consecutive weekends.

 

Currently Walker is working on the set of HBO’s “Euphoria” season 2 as a COVID-19 compliance officer. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can about filmmaking and the process. I’m interested in TV so I wanted to join a high profile TV show that would allow me to explore and really take in what it really takes to make a TV show,” Walker said.

 

In addition Walker said she will be mentored by Lalou Dammond, one half of Lalou & Joaquin, this August at Biscuit Filmworks. Lalou & Joaquin are the creators of well known television spots for brands including Nike and McDonald’s.

 

“Misfits” is currently being shown at events and isn’t yet available for streaming.  However, Walker said, “It’s going to be out for anyone to watch in October,” granted that the film is accepted into the student academy awards. Otherwise, “it might be available very quickly!”

 

SRJC will be hosting Zoom events throughout March, see the following link below for more information: https://events.santarosa.edu/womens-history-month