First time Black British female director selected for leading US film festival

Writer, director and Words of Colour contributor Veronica McKenzie's debut feature Nine Nights is having its world premiere at the prestigious Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles, from 7 to 18 February 2019.

A first time director, McKenzie will be flying the flag for UK black talent at the largest black film festival in the US, now in its 27th year. PAFF’s legacy has produced success stories, including Will Packer, Kevin Hart, Ryan Coogler, Barry Jenkins and Ava DuVernay.

McKenzie said of the film:”After a sudden death, I was thrown into the Caribbean mourning ritual ‘Nine Night’, and was caught up in the clash between traditional and contemporary attitudes in my second generation Caribbean family.”

Nine Nights began to take shape in early-2003 during an MA in Screenwriting. The script was shortlisted for the Nicholls Fellowship and optioned by the BBC, but McKenzie admits, “nothing came of it”.

It wasn’t until 2016 that actor friends suggested that she may be the only one with the insight to bring the script to life. She explained: “So began my long transition from writer to director. Nine Nights is my dedication and appreciation of a part of Caribbean culture which is currently undergoing a revival.”

Featuring rising starts Mary Nyambura as Marcie and Malcolm Atobrah as her twin Mikey, they act alongside more established talent, including Jo Martin (Leonore) and Stud Life’s T’Nia Miller (Aunt Sylvie).

Nine Nights is about twin sprinters Marcie and Mikey who are on the verge of adulthood. When Marcie loses her brother in a random accident, with her world in tatters, she decides not to accept his death. As the Nine Night ritual counts down, she vows to keep him with her, whatever it takes. Her struggle brings to light long buried family feuds and Marcie learns that love will always prevail.

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