Left: Jazmen Darnell Brown is a screenwriter born and raised in Lansing, MI with his mother, Dawn Brown at the screening of his feature film, “The Citizen”. Courtesy photos
By Deborah M. Walker
LANSING, MI -- For the past five years, Jazmen Darnell Brown a 2003 J.W. Sexton High School graduate had been waiting anxiously for what would be his inauguration into the world of feature film writing. Since 2008, Brown had been working on his project trying perilously to explain his cinema venture to friends and family who were perplexed as to the extent of his work. Brown tried countless times to clarify and the grand scale of his work and now he can finally reveal the result of his endeavor.
“The entertainment industry is kind of this enigma that many people don’t understand,” said Brown.
“For the past five years I've been telling all my friends and family about this film, it’s a feature film and kind of a big deal. Even though this film was a premier my mom thought it was a twenty minute short [film]. I said no, it was picked up for distribution and has begun its worldwide theatrical release."
It was a great moment for Brown who finally got a chance to reveal the film to his mother, Dawn Brown. His mother still lives in Lansing, MI and attended the premier with him. Brown said his mother thought the movie was touching and kept her on the edge of her seat.
Finished and in theatres “The Citizen,” starring Egyptian film star Khaled Nabawy, gives Brown a chance to clue love-ones in on his incredible talent as a writer and story teller. “The Citizen” is a film about a Middle Eastern man from Lebanon who comes to America, after winning the green card lottery, on September 10, 2001 the day before the infamous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. But Brown says that this is more than just another 9/11 movie.
“I want to be careful not to call it "a 9/11 movie" it’s much more than that. It's about the view of somebody after 9/11 happened but it’s much more about the journey after that.”
Brown says that the film is engaging to people from all nationalities because it touches on some of the core adversity that all people face. Brown says that this story is about a man who has a goal and in accomplishing that goal faces struggles, obstacles and heartache. Brown says that he can relate to this because of the conflicts he has faced.
“I’m an African American screen writer living in Los Angles so I know what set-back is like I know what obstacles are. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that,” said Brown.
Brown says that it was a great experience to work on the film with people from other nationalities and to get their stories told. Brown says that in Hollywood too often stories of minorities are overlooked. This isn't just with the African American community but with all minority nationalities.
“I love the fact that it is actually appealing to different demographics,” said Brown. “I’m an African American myself and the complaint very often in Hollywood is that a lot of our stories don’t get told. The fact that I got to be a part of a movie that’s telling a story from a perspective that we don’t often hear from was what attracted me to the film. “
Brown worked on this film with two other writers, Sam Kadi who also produced the film and Samir Younis. It was Kadi’s idea to write the film and Kadi uses many of his personal experiences as a Syrian immigrant to expose elements that he faced when coming to the United States to study film.
Brown says that he enjoyed working on the film with Kadi. The two worked together on a previous project; a short film called “Raised Alone.” Brown and Kadi received much success with this film and decided to move on the larger feature film.
“The Citizen” is enjoying much success as well racking up film festival awards at the 2012 Boston Film Festival for "Winner Best Ensemble Cast & Mass Impact Award" and the 2013 International Family Film Festival for "Winner Best Feature Drama". They also were selected for screenings and nominated for awards at the 2012 Cinequest Film Festival and the 2013 Hollywood Film Festival.
Released in Dearborn, Birmingham and Novi, Michigan, “The Citizen” has been attracting fans and gaining popularity. Brown says that the Arab community has accepted the film enthusiastically and he was excited to attend the premier with the film’s star Khaled Nobaway.
“When we had the premier the audience that was there that knew him [Nobaway]. You know we were in Dearborn which is a big Middle Eastern audience there. They knew who he was and kind of mobbed him a little bit so I know that when we go over to the Middle East I know it’s going to do really well,” said Brown.
Brown says that the short theatre run doesn’t discredit the film. Independent films aren't like high budget films which open in theatres across the country. Brown says that independent films start off in a small market and grows from there.
“The way it works with independent film is that you open up in a small select number of theatres and then depending on the success in those theatres you can expand to other markets,” Brown said.
Brown says that the film will also look to open up in markets overseas. The “The Citizen” is set to open up in Germany, parts of the Middle East and China which is a huge film market.
“Obviously it’s not like a huge star studded pic that opens up everywhere like “Iron Man.” It was made with very little money but right now we’re just trying to get into as many theatres as possible and get as many people out there to see it," said Brown.
Brown says that he was excited to be back in Michigan working on his film. It had been several years since he last visited his home state and Brown says that it was good to be home. Brown was born and raised in Lansing MI. After graduating from high school, he studied Media Production at Florida State University. For Brown this film was more than a spotlight on him it was a chance to come home and showcase Michigan’s talent.
“I think it’s great that we’re getting a chance to show everyone what Michigan is about,” said Brown.
Brown says that the movie industry in Michigan is promising and he hopes that more film makers would look to Michigan to make movies. Brown says that a lot of major films have been made in Michigan already. Michigan has been home to countless film projects both small and large including “Sparkle” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
Brown says that the film industry is still focused on Hollywood but it is also supporting independent films as well. Brown says that his film “The Citizen” is an example of this; even though the film as about New York City eighty percent of the film was shot in Michigan. Brown says film making is good for the Michigan economy and hopes the trend continues.
Brown says that although he is still interested in film he wants to pursue television because that is where the new opportunities lie.
“They’re making less films now-a-days and the movies they are making are based on existing properties or sequels like “Iron Man 3” and the “Avengers” and other movies like that,” said Brown. “Television is where it’s at especially for someone like me who’s young and a person of color. There’s a lot of talk about diversifying television.”
Brown says that television is now in its “golden years,” because of the large amount of quality television programming on air and he wants to be a part of it. Brown recently interviewed for a writing position with CBS, a mass media corporation, and is waiting on the result of that interview.
“I hope that everyone goes out and sees it. It is from the perspective of someone that we don’t usually get to see . There are a lot of 9/11 movies but it’s never from a minority perspective” said Brown.
Movies Made in Michigan
2011 - The Ides of March - Ides of March Films, Inc.
2010 - Gulliver's Travels - TCF International Productions, Inc.
2010 - Capitalism: A Love Story - Front Street Productions, LLC
2004 - The Island - Dreamworks
1984 - Beverly Hills Cop - Paramount Pictures
1979 Somewhere In Time - Universal
This was printed in the October 20, 2013 - November 2, 2013 Edition