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Mandon Lovett Details What He Learned About French Montana After Directing 'For Khadija'

Before stepping into the film industry, Mandon Lovett went to college to study law and politics. But after discovering the cinema verité style of filmmaking his path was forever changed.

Since his journey in filmmaking began, Lovett did directorial work on the A&E series Origins of Hip Hop, produced Showtime's Boys in Blue alongside Peter Berg, directed Hulu's RapCaviar Presents, and most recently premiered his first full-length feature documentary For Khadija, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June.

The subject of For Khadija is French Montana and focuses on Montana's upbringing, his relationship with his mother Khadija, moving on from his father abandoning their family, his own journey from the streets of the South Bronx to hip hop success, and his journey back to Morocco to help his mother reconnect with loved ones.

"I think the first thing that sticks out to me is that French really has a really big heart and he has a passion for people. He’s incredibly empathetic, and I think once we understand his journey, you understand why he really has a unique journey coming from the South Bronx. And really starting from the very, very bottom set of circumstances. I think it was unusual for hip hop, but not necessarily for a lot of people and immigrants especially, it’s very much an immigrant journey," Lovett said about who he feels French Montana is behind his rap persona.

In exploring who French is, Lovett discovered a few surprising and interesting things.

"I think I found it fascinating that French really held no bitterness towards his father. He became successful and was able to contextualize his father's decision. And I think it's really important. Sometimes life doesn’t give us all the best cards, but I think what's more important is how we respond and adapt to handle self-worth and French did an incredible job of doing that. I think that he's sort of taking the role of 'my father wasn't there for me so I'm gonna be as present as possible.'"

The project was produced by Drake and Sean Diddy Combs (Combs was in attendance at the Tribeca Film Festival Premiere).

Cinéma vérité, Lovett's preferred style of filmmaking, was developed by French filmmakers over 60 years ago and is based on fly-on-the-wall improvisational observation.

When Lovett spoke on what the approach means to him he stated, "I believe that you can learn a lot about a person just by observing their day-to-day activities by just essentially being a fly on the wall in their world. So I try my best to take on that approach, and the camera really disappears in the room, and the subject is not paying attention to the camera, or, the subject doesn’t really know the camera is there. [And I try in] all of my films to find some moments where I can sort of disappear as a filmmaker and observe. And the goal is that the viewer can learn a lot about the subject, character, and personality, just by being a fly on the wall." The technique allows Lovett to create the feel of naturalism.

Mandon Lovett
Mandon Lovett

Although far from his political studies, Lovett has managed to draw from what he studied and apply it when tackling filmmaking. "I think that a lot of us are a product of the systems we are born into and the world that we're born into. I was studying [Politics and Law] to give me a really intricate and layered understanding of the world. So applying that. I have a passion for music, culture, and sports. So whenever I'm doing films, I try to take my approach and my instinct and the things I’ve studied about the world and systems and understand how they apply to my subject matter. And so it's a really neat combination I think," Lovett said.

What is a key element to many of Lovett's projects is the focus on Hip-Hop. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, Lovett stated, "I think Hip-Hop is an incredibly young genre. I think celebrating 50 years is a beautiful thing, but also think in reference to where we are as a country. It's also one of our most dynamically younger genres. And to be such a young genre, or art form, and to be as popular as it is worldwide, I think, to the art itself, and the artists, especially, I do believe in artists and I believe in the power of music, [and the artist power] to inspire people through their lives. I'm fascinated by not necessarily an artist's music.

I think that's incredibly subjective. We all have different music and different artists that we like. But I think with each artist you can find a really good story. And so those are the things that [I'm excited for]. That artist's journey and how they became an artist, that moment that was a turning point moment for them in their artistry and the bravery that comes along with being an artist. What I think is so incredible about Hip-Hop is it’s so relevant. It’s so now and because of that relevancy in the cultural currency it has the ability to inspire the younger generations, and that's why I'm a filmmaker to inspire and I think that that is the beauty of Hip-Hop to inspire."

No release date has been mentioned but be on the lookout for For Khadija.

Photo Credit: Daniel Hall


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