Writer/Director A.V. Rockwell. (Maya Iman)

On the heels of winning the Sundance Film Festival’s coveted Grand Jury Prize, “A Thousand And One,” the debut feature film by director A.V. Rockwell is continuing to receive rave reviews.

Set in New York in the mid-1990s, the film follows Inez (Teyana Taylor) who after being released from jail, kidnaps her six-year-old son, Terry (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) from foster care in hopes of creating a better life for them both.

Over the course of two decades, the coming-of-age story not only chronicles the lives of Inez and Terry, but also the various socioeconomic factors that affect Inez’s mission to give Terry the life she never had.

Teyana Taylor and director A.V. Rockwell spoke with the LA Sentinel about the various complexities of the film.

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Teyana Taylor (Aaron Ricketts/Focus Features)

When asked what she hopes audiences come away with at the conclusion of her film, A.V. Rockwell shared, “For me, this film is about the power of home and the power of family within our community. Throughout the film, we see everything happening in society that works to pull our families apart and how hard we have to fight for them.

“I think the movie also addresses the fact that in order to best be suited and well-armored for the fight we have against the cities and systems that are operating from a place of trying to make life harder for us, we have to work through the issues that we have in our community.”

She continued, “This movie addresses classism and respectability politics but also our dynamics between Black women and Black men. Even though we’re fighting for everyone, who’s really fighting for us [Black women]? Our love is so deep and so loyal, but I think when it comes to receiving that back, the love becomes way more conditional. Rarely do we see enough depictions of why we are the way we are and what the world is really like for us.”

She added, “In order to really tell that story and speak to the ways that we [as Black women] want to feel loved, honored, and seen in our humanity, I had to do a deep dive into our experience and a deep dive into the fight that we have as a community and as families against all of the external things that try to pull us apart.”

Teyana Taylor stars as Inez and Aaron Kingsley Adetola stars as six-year-old Terry. (Focus Features)

“A Thousand And One” not only centers around the relationship dynamic between mother and son, but also husband and wife. While being married is often believed to be a woman’s deepest desire in life, when two people are enmeshing their unresolved traumas, the results are far from perfect.

In this particular narrative, Inez’s husband, Lucky, played by William Catlett, chooses to love Inez and Terry in spite of the choices she’s made. Inez also extends an immeasurable amount of grace and forgiveness to Lucky throughout their relationship.

When asked what she wants male viewers to take away from the film, Teyana Taylor shared, “Being mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically gentle with the heart is something that goes both ways. Be willing to listen and not just listen to respond but listen to see what the heart wants.

“I hope that men know that it’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to love and it’s okay to be willing to be a student. Lucky had never received love, so he didn’t know what to do or how to do it.

The cast, from left, are Josiah Cross, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Teyana Taylor, A.V. Rockwell, William Catlett and Aven Courtney. (Focus Features/StarPix Celebrity Images)

“On the other hand, you have Inez who also never received love, but she was giving what she wanted. And there’s a difference. Some people aren’t used to love and don’t give it.

While some people have always wanted love, so they’re going to give you what they’ve always wanted in the hopes that it will be reciprocated in the purest form.”

She added, “Be kinder, more gentle, and more graceful with love and with one another. If we’re willing to work towards being better versions of ourselves every day, I think it would be a much better world.”

 “A Thousand And One” released by Focus Features is currently in theaters nationwide.