"I'm a Midwest girl," Brooklyn-based Director and fourth-year film student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Aisha Ford told BK Reader.
Despite living in New York for several years and shooting her latest short film, 'Cherry Lemonade' in Los Angeles, the Ohio native remains committed to telling stories set in her home state, and often those stories are set on coming-of-age moments.
Her latest work, 'Cherry Lemonade,' follows eleven-year-old Phoenix, played by Eris Baker (NBC's This is Us) as she grows up in a neighborhood full of potential dangers. By her side is her protective older brother Kurt, played by Skylan Brooks (Netflix's The Get Down), hoping to shield her from the neighborhood's more dangerous residents.
Like much of Ford's work, 'Cherry Lemonade' is personal in nature for her.
"I wanted to do a film that was kind of based on my older brothers and our childhood," Ford said. She originally wrote the film to be set in a lower-class Ohio neighborhood like the one where she grew up. "Sometimes, the neighborhood like where I grew up in, like lower class, you don't have the protectors."
The film's title comes from the flavor of slushie Phoenix gets in one of the film's scenes. The slushie represents the main character's desire to be a normal girl, Ford said. "With this film, I just want you to relate to Phoenix, you know, she's a normal girl just trying to be a normal kid."
The short film was selected to be featured in the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, as well as the Roxbury International Film Festival.
The film was shot in 2019 and was produced through the Women in Media CAMERAderie initiative. It's largely volunteer crew was made up of more than 90% women, women-identifying and gender-nonconforming individuals, and more than 50% BIPOC individuals.
Ford believes the innocence of the main character's motivations are what attracted the attention of the Tribeca Film Festival.
"It's more about my main character just trying to be a normal kid. And just trying to get that slushie. And we don't see that in films these days without consequences," Ford said.
"I like the fact that it revolves around a young Black girl perspective."
Ford said with all her films, she kept coming back to the coming-of-age perspective. Her previous film 'Royal' is about an African American teen struggling with her self-worth at a predominantly white school. Her debut film, 'Wren'" is about the complex relationship between an addict and her teenage daughter. Ford is currently in the process of turning 'Wren' into her first feature-length film.
In a future project, Ford said she would like to explore an unexpected genre: Westerns. "I like the idea of an outlaw trying to take law back in their hands, and the justice that I get from that."
Whatever the genre, Ford hopes her films feel authentic. "I want it to be like my own lived reality as an African American woman, showing that perspective in cinema that we rarely see. Even show our joy, our complexity and our flaws as well."
'Cherry Lemonade' will screen at Tribeca Film Festival from June 9 — June 20 and Roxbury International Film Festival from June 17 — June 26. Visit Aisha Ford's website here.