Before he dipped his toe into the cinematic pool as a director and film composer, Robert Diggs (a.k.a. RZA) was the head of some golden era hip-hop collective obsessed with Shaw Brothers films. Before scaring off the collective pantaloons of audiences with films about a clan of murderous rednecks, Robert Bartleh Cummings (a.k.a. Rob Zombie) was sharing his sinister urges musically. Before she made W.E. and Filth And Wisdom, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was voguing and challenging sexual mores through catchy pop melodies. Hailed as "the total package of authenticity and bold expression" in The Charleston Chronicle, Chaquis Maliq, the EccentroSoul 1 Woman Band, has been honing her musical craft for years, much to the delight of fans in the Holy City and the rest of the country. When not steadily releasing music or creating a documentary about the musical process (Resilience Eludes Death:The Making), she's acting in a musical play (When I First Remember). Much like the musicians who came before her, Maliq isn't content with staying in one artistic lane. Recently she's taken the 1 Woman Road approach to her first short film, IT Womyn. While on the road she took time to chat about her latest project.
City Paper: What inspired IT Womyn?
Chaquis Maliq: Well, there are quite a few things. For one, I've never seen a sitcom portray women in the technology world. There's a show that I've watched called The IT Crowd and the leading woman on the show lands a job in IT and doesn't even know what a browser is. I also attended a college prep high school that focused on science, math, and technology. I wasn't enrolled in any art classes (which sucks because I'm a full blown artist.) I even had a Cisco class, where we took apart computers and rebuilt them. I've worked at an interactive tech firm, where I had to do things that didn't apply to my actual position as an executive assistant. The office was remote and all the guys there were either graphic designers or programmers. They wanted to turn me into a programmer ... I understood the language and I often had to code things for my website(s). Also, the co-writer of IT Womyn, Jon Williams, is a total geek who has been in IT for years. Jon shares some of his experiences with users and I interpret them through the character of Tahera, a black asexual woman geek.
CP: How do you approach storytelling?
CM: Truth. I simply use real life. I'm not trying to entertain anyone with what they want to see or have been programmed to see. If I create something that is bashing or shaming, I'm not making a difference. We are used to seeing the same sex trafficking, sexual assault, war type entertainment. At this point, I'm severely traumatized by watching shit like this. Having been a victim myself doesn't make it any easier. So, telling a story about one or more of my characteristics conquers multiple attacks from childhood to adulthood. So, Tahera flipping a guy off because she was not in the mood to talk is something that should be shown without an assault taking place. If we keep creating things that provoke these ideas, then it will continue. Now that I think about it ... on the same street I filmed that scene something similar happened. However, I didn't have to flip him off. I simply just gave him a "fuck you" look. He said: "Like that?!" And laughed it off. There should be more of that and no attacks, because a woman doesn't want to talk.
CP: What impact do you hope IT Womyn will have?
CM: I hope it will allow people to realize that black women in tech (STEM) do exist. And that the Blerd community isn't just about comics and arguing over DC vs. Marvel. I want misogyny to be recognized through artistic dialogue and not Twitter wars or contradicting articles written by confused men.
CP: When you watch a film, what makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
CM: When I watch a film, what makes it great is when it's not a damn love story all the damn time. That's why I love Thor and now the storyline of Black Panther on screen. And I honestly figured out that's why I hate X-Men. I just like to laugh and enjoy a good story, with major lessons. If I'm not being enlightened/learning from a film, then it's not for me. Movies have become so predictable because people try to follow the continuity of the industry and fail.
CP: We learn best from the experiences where it doesn't work. And yet we still only discuss the success, not the failure. What failures (of your own) have you been able to learn from? How did they change you and your process, be it music, acting or filmmaking?
CM: Faith and failure are not soulmates. When something doesn't turn out the way you want, why is it considered failure? Maybe that's the way it was supposed to happen to get you to go in another direction. But that direction is based upon the first trial and error. IT Womyn was created as a pilot for NBC Shorts Film Festival. After I read all the fine print, I was like: I'm better off just putting this out myself instead of the high possibility of having my ideas taken, published, without credit, and without any compensation. And since I make my own music, I just put in my music as the score and sound design. I am literally my resource. There are so many roadblocks with the music and film industry, but there are so many ways other than that to present your art.
Watch IT Womyn on chaquismaliq.com.