Web series 195 Lewis premiered Season 1 domestically at BAM, internationally at Rotterdam Film Festival and has been seen at many other venues/fests over the past year, building a natural, devoted following with every screening. When I saw episode 1 I was instantly hooked. 195 Lewis has the grit and spirit of old school independent cinema. It has a creative undercurrent that moves from scene to scene with a visual wit and editing stutter of a wholly new, internet influenced language. It speaks to cultures largely underheard in mainstream media. 195 Lewis is a new frontier of humanistic visual storytelling that filled me with so much hope and heart that all I could do after waking from my stunned post-viewing state was to figure out how to share it with as many people as possible.
Yuri (a polyamorous painter), Ann (a student trying to “get her music career off the ground”), Chris (a Southern, Howard grad transplanted to Brooklyn) and others represent a community of queer, sex positive, WOC holed up in Brooklyn brownstones, communing with one another while trying to find themselves. The shows tensions spring from the lives of these layered, complex woman as they balance the unique interior and exterior demands placed on creative, young Brooklynites. Star Rae Leone Allen (who is also a writer & producer) is a powerhouse of talent that exudes pure soul; she is a presence on screen and off, a vessel for artistic desire/longing that is able to speak to everyone. Director, Writer Chanelle Aponte Pearson (who’s production company MVMT Films is also behind the series, a surreal collective that features the equally as visionary Terence Nance) captures a pictorial rawness, mixed with an elegant swagger, mixed with short pulses of hilarious relevance (ex. A rundown of the 5 types of Brooklyn lesbians, a quick, reductive look at stereotypes- from doms to Beyonces.)
The series immerses you in a culture without making one feel like a voyeur, nor does it fetishize; somehow 195 makes you feel as though you are simply sitting there alongside these women- experiencing, appreciating and just being. This open, inviting stance the series beckons with isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. I think 195 is able to resonate with such truth because it comes from truth: it speaks openly about the lives of the women producing it and the lives of the women around them.
Though 195 springs from a very specific culture it isn’t exclusionary, it portrays just another spectrum in the prism of life. The realness- the palpable honesty- of the work makes you sink into your own skin a little bit deeper. There is a relief or calm acceptance of self that radiates outwards with the reminder that no matter how different lives can be, we are all navigating the exact same world- emotional and physical- alongside one another. In these weird, dark times- in film and beyond- 195 Lewis acts as a pure beacon of optimism and deep expression, announcing the dawn of a much needed new era of independent media.
– Donna K. (@TeamDonnaK)