April 21, 2019 | 55° F

Director sheds light on city issues in fiction-based film

The Center for Latino Arts and Culture explored social themes found in city life on Friday when it screened the movie “Money Matters” at the Douglass Campus Center.

Ryan Richmond, the film’s director, said the idea behind the movie first came to him during his time as a college student. The story gained a popular following, inspiring him to extend it out into a feature-length film.

“The movie started as a seven-minute short film while I was studying at New York University,” Richmond said. “Everyone who saw it wanted to know the rest of the story — what came before and what followed.”

The movie centers on a young black female named Monique Matters. Monique or “Money” is a 14-year-old biracial girl struggling with teenage life. Monique is forced to deal with being an outcast at school, seeing her mother struggle financially and joining a female gang.

Monique soon finds herself constantly writing poetry to cope with her emotions, a form of self-reflection that teaches her important lessons about herself and her surroundings.

The film’s story deals with themes that were drawn from real-life experiences, Richmond said.

“Even though the story is fictional, it has a lot of elements of [Washington,] D.C., where I grew up,” Richmond said.

Richmond said to keep the film real he decided not to focus on just one subject. Instead, he dealt with issues such as drugs, gangs and homosexuality.

Richmond said much of the essence of realism in the film is because of Terri Abney, the actress who plays protagonist Monique Matters.

“Her real life resembles a bit of the character’s life,” he said. “The credit for the truth goes to her and her openness with us.”

Carlos Fernandez, director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, said the movie succeeds in portraying some of society’s problems to the public.

“It was a great film — very real and powerful. It achieves our purpose of bringing wider views on present issues,” he said.

The Center for Latino Arts and Culture contacted the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, which is touring six films around the region. Of those films, “Money Matters” caught the eye of the center’s staff for being the only narrative film on the tour, Fernandez said.

“This movie was not about scenes — it was about dialogue, and that’s hard,” Fernandez said.

Francheska Perez, a New Brunswick Public Schools family worker, said the film gives an accurate depiction of the everyday struggles of urban life.

“It is a very compelling movie for young people. It should be presented at schools, with some moderation in its language,” Perez said. “The social problems it depicts are nothing short of what goes on in a lot of communities today.”

Dillon Swiderski Soto, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, said he liked how the movie remained realistic while presenting a positive story and a hopeful outcome coming out of very negative and challenging circumstances.

Richmond said what he likes most about film is its ability it has to tell a story and leave a meaningful impact on people’s lives.

“I enjoy telling stories,” he said. “One like this one looks to affect the people. I believe that film is the most powerful medium and the goal here was not to give a story, but to open people’s minds to new themes and perspectives with it.”

Richmond said he is in the process of writing another script for a comedy movie.

By Carmelo Cintrón Vivas

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