Canadian Women Film Directors Database
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The Photograph

Directed by Stella Meghie
China / United States, 2020 (fiction, 106 minutes, colour, English)
Also known as "A Fotografia", "Fotoğraf", "La fotografía", "La photographe", "Retrato de un amor"

Film Description:
"The discovery of a hidden family photograph sends Mae Morton (Issa Rae) on a quest for answers. The journey into her estranged mother's past exposes many secrets and ignites a powerful, unexpected romance with rising-star journalist Michael Block (Lakeith Stanfield). Award-winning writer-director Stella Meghie [...] tells a sweeping love story about forgiveness and finding the courage to seek the truth, no matter where it leads you."
-- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Stella Meghie
Produced by: James Lopez, Will Packer, Shayla Cowan, Erika Hampson, Stella Meghie, Issa Rae, Heather Washington
Principal Cast: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Rob Morgan, Courtney B. Vance
Cinematography: Mark Schwartzbard
Film Editing: Shannon Baker Davis
Music: Robert Glasper
Production Company: Perfect World Pictures, Will Packer Productions

Quotes by the Director

"How fulfilling it was to do the score [for The Photograph] with Robert Glasper! I think it's one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard and that's attributed to Glasper. I love jazz music, and one of the things that was important to me was to make jazz accessible to a wider audience. Universal was great about making my budget pretty large on the music side and being able to have Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston in the movie."
-- Stella Meghie (source)

"Comedy/drama is my sweet spot, and this one [The Photograph] leaned more toward the dramatic than anything I've written for myself [before]. And that was really fun, to do some of those scenes in the past when it gets really heavy. You know, that was a muscle I hadn't really completely flexed yet."
-- Stella Meghie (source)

"I wanted this film [The Photograph] to feel sexy and warm and dark, saturated. So it was a pretty tight color palette of these rich, earthy, you know, colors, jewel tones—there's a lot of burgundy in the film, a lot of dark green, a lot of like chocolate brown."
-- Stella Meghie (source)

"Photographer Jheyda McGarrell created 'Christina's Portfolio' [for The Photograph]. She was finishing her thesis at NYU when I asked her if she'd do it. Her work made Christina's history feel lived in on-screen. It was important for me to find a woman of color to represent the character and to find artists that represented Mae to fill her apartment like Delita Martin, Mequitta Ahuja and Ervin A. Johnson."
-- Stella Meghie (source)

"The thesis I was trying to make [in The Photograph], which I'm often making in my films, is really how your past and your family affect how you go through the world. What chances you take, who you love and how you love."
-- Stella Meghie (source)

Quotes about The Photograph

"Big-screen romantic drama, like romantic comedy, needs a conflict. When two great-looking stars play characters who lock eyes and flirt and get closer and fall in love, the pull of that chemistry is so strong that if there isn't something to keep them apart, you don't have a movie—or, at least, that's the theory. But in The Photograph, a love story that flows like a life-size swoon (it unfolds slowly, surely, riding cautious currents of hope and desire), Michael (Lakeith Stanfield), a feature writer for an online magazine called The Republic, and Mae (Issa Rae), a curator at the Queens Museum, come together and connect in a slow-groove way that's so organic and appealing you can feel the film's writer-director, Stella Meghie, not wanting to get in their way."
-- Owen Gleiberman (source)

"[Stella] Meghie, best known for the romcom The Weekend (2018), again both writes and directs, and has turned out a polished gem [The Photograph] in the same emotional vein as Nancy Myers or Nora Ephron—with perhaps more urgency than sentiment."
-- Pamela Hutchinson (source)

"While fleshing out the characters' backstories [in The Photograph], [Stella] Meghie decided to write what she knew. She decided her leads would be young professionals in the middle- to upper-middle-class range (a rarity for Black characters on screen) to reflect her own experience growing up in Canada. 'I grew up with a pool in the suburbs, so I guess it reflects my upbringing and what I know,' she said. 'I just think there's not enough Black films, so it starts to feel like [life is] just one way because just one kind of movie is getting greenlit. And so it's important to show all aspects of life, even if it's aspirational.'"
-- Sonaiya Kelley (source)

"It's hard to balance love and career: that may not be a fresh insight, but it's rarely been explored as tenderly as it is in The Photograph, an exploration of two generations of wayward souls who too easily allow romance to take a backseat to professional and artistic aspirations. Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield have terrific chemistry playing immensely likable but guarded people learning to be truly intimate with one another, and writer-director Stella Meghie provides them with smart, sparkling dialogue. And although the film sometimes dips into muddled melodrama, those occasional setbacks can't derail a story filled with warm, resonant characters trying to fathom their own hearts."
-- Tim Grierson (source)

"The Photograph treats all its characters with some decency and understanding, in a genre where straw villains and cardboard adversaries typically run rampant. The plaintive, jazz-inflected musical score by Robert Glasper establishes the right vibe and level of drama, which is to say: more like life and less like the movies."
-- Michael Phillips (source)

"[The Photograph is] a love story. A groovy, romantic love story where the two main characters have tremendous chemistry and Black love is fully on display. Michael (Lakeith Stanfield) is a feature writer for The Republic, an online magazine and Mae (Issa Rae) is a curator at the Queens Museum. From the very beginning, it's clear that these characters know how to spar in a sexy way, evidenced on their first date when they discuss music. She likes Drake, he doesn't. He likes Kendrick, she doesn't."
-- Lapacazo Sandoval (source)

"Hollywood was built on the premise that audiences want to watch beautiful people fall in love on a screen 30 feet high. For decades, we proved them right, showering romantic dramas with box office dollars and awards. It baffles me that the studios gave up on the genre. [...] That also must have baffled Canadian writer/director Stella Meghie [...] because [with The Photograph] she has delivered—right on time for Valentine's Day—an unabashed, golden-lit, swoon-inducing, capital-R Romance, starring two of the most gorgeous people you will ever see, Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield. Her camera has its own affair with their silky skin, their expressive eyes, their jewel-toned dream wardrobes. Her story has them inch-inch-inch toward love under velvety night skies to the slow pulse of a jazz score. I, for one, am all here for it."
-- Johanna Schneller (source)

Publications by the Director about The Photograph

Bibliography for The Photograph

Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Web Sites about The Photograph

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