Dominique Seward (courtesy photo)


Cannes Film Festival has long been a meeting place for up and coming filmmakers full of burgeoning talent.

Still, like much of the film industry, it can be a place devoid of diversity.

But amidst the commotion, one Black filmmaker is making a name for herself via her acceptance to the Creative Mind Group Filmmakers Institute at the Cannes International Film Festival this year, while hoping to tell purpose-driven stories in the process.

Of 60 filmmakers accepted into the program, Dominique Seward is one of the six Blacks. 

I felt privileged and humbled,” Seward said of her acceptance to the program.

 A filmmaker since the age of 14, Seward described the program as an intensive, collaborative experience. 

“The most challenging aspect of the program was settling on the look and feel of the film with the screenwriter without giving up my all of my creative vision,” she said.

Challenges aside, the Seward-directed film entitled Lilli screened to an audience of over 200 people on May 22 in Cannes.

The film follows a mute lesbian who is buying a gift for her girlfriend and is mugged in the process.

“It made a statement,” she said.

And making an honest statement is exactly what Seward wants to do with her gift.

Growing up she idolized black filmmakers such as John Singleton, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Spike Lee, and Ava Duvernay. 

“The one common thread that I feel resonates with me the most amongst these directors is that they’re honest and direct with the subject matter they depict,” Seward said. 

For Seward, the honesty of her idols meant growing up with a myriad of stories and characters that she was able to relate to deeply.

Film has long been a great source of entertainment for many people, and Seward is no exception. Still, she insists that while she aims to be entertaining, her primary goal is to make films that shed an honest light on issues such as race, gender, domestic violence, and poverty.

“I’m choosing to use the most powerful weapon I know which is film, to rectify lost truths and to uplift my community as people have uplifted me,” Seward said. 

Seward believes, like many Blacks do, that no real power or change will come until the Black community works as a collective. Additionally, she notes that Blacks are often disconnected and held back by the wounds and transgressions of the past. 

But what’s interesting about her perspective is that many of the same narratives prevalent within the Black community shine through in her films.

In one of the clearest examples of art imitating life, Seward notes that despite many of her characters having great potential, their endings are often left ambiguous.

“Lilli speaks to people everywhere especially people who are disabled or ridiculed because of their sexual orientation or race,” she says.

In particular, the mugging scene is especially powerful because of the character’s inability to cry out against her attacker. 

“I feel that in our society people are often silenced and never really given the chance to express how they feel,” she said.

 For the young filmmaker, her ideas and skill intersect at a place called purpose. 

Seward wants to help people and she seems to understand that film isn’t a bad way to do it.

“I know that cinema is powerful and film is a universal language,” she said.