Director Kelley Kali Celebrates Pride and Caribbean Heritage With Psychological Thriller ‘Jagged Mind’
There aren’t too many thrillers that give off sexy LGBTQ vibes while promoting Caribbean heritage. That’s why director Kelley Kali’s movie, Jagged Mind is so special.
A movie such as Jagged Mind is unheard of. Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Shannon Woodward star in this toxic, queer love tale. Filmed in the Little Haiti section of Miami, Sellers stars as Billie, a woman experiencing sudden blackouts causing her to forget important moments of her life. She then meets Alex, played by Woodward, who promises to take care of her and seems too good to be true. Billy soon discovers her love life with Alex is not exactly what it seems.
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Director Kali told Black Enterprise when she was brought onto the project, the script was originally read for two white women. She quickly knew making the characters an interracial couple would add to their already complex relationship. “What I didn’t realize is that the short, which I intentionally avoided watching because I didn’t want it to influence my ideas on the feature, already had an interracial couple,” Kali said. “So, I was on the same page as the writer, Allyson, without knowing.”
Kali is an award-winning Haitian-American filmmaker who has worked on films around the world in Belize, Haiti, and China. The Howard University and USC School of Cinematic Arts alum was excited to bring her culture to the big screen, premiering at the American Black Film Festival in Miami, where she resides. “I absolutely love filming in Little Haiti, Miami. I’ve spent a lot of time in the country of Haiti and have even filmed there, so I already have a very special place in my heart for the Haitian community,” Kali said. “So, filming in Little Haiti, and being supported by the Haitian community in Miami, really made this film special.”
The film highlights an important element of Caribbean culture that can often be overlooked—spells. Actor Jimmy Jean-Louis also stars in the movie as Papa Juste, a mysterious man who has Billie’s cure in the palm of his hand. Throughout the film, Jean-Louis and others can be heard speaking Haitian Kreyòl, which Kali looks at as a “blessing.” “What I really loved was that we were able to cast Haitian actors and then incorporate Haitian Kreyòl to be spoken in the film,” the director recalls. “I think it’s such a perfect blessing to have everything come full circle and be premiering at ABFF in Miami, the city that we filmed in and have it during Caribbean Heritage Month and Pride Month.”
Premiering on Hulu on June 15 for the world to see, the decorated director gave props to the streaming platform and 20th Digital Studio for being so open to a project that exudes diversity. As the news shows stories of LGBTQ rights attempted to be erased, it was eye-opening to Kali that some studios see the beauty in diverse stories instead of giving them the side-eye. “I have to say that this executive team from 20th Digital Studios and Hulu were phenomenal with their intentions on diversity inclusion,” Kali celebrated. “As for the LGBTQ+ community, the team had already planned on casting authentically as well. I never had to even bring it up, which made me so happy and proud to be part of a team that had already given thought to the issues of lack of inclusion in our film industry.”