When an e-mail from the D.C. Independent Film Festival appeared in filmmaker David Lee Roberts’ inbox, he initially disregarded it.
“I thought it was junk e-mail,” Roberts told the AFRO in a recent interview.
But to his surprise, it was a message to inform him that his film Isaiah Wait had been selected for entry in the annual festival, which only chooses 110 films out of 2,000 worldwide submissions.
“When I found that out it really made me feel good,” he said.
Now, fresh off its world premiere at the event, Roberts hopes the film will be a beacon of encouragement for viewers across the globe that are experiencing tough times.
“The film gives you a greater appreciation for what you may be going through,” Roberts said.
Set in the District, Isaiah Wait tells the story of a grandmother named Mrs. Bennett who is raising her teenage grandson, Isaiah. While struggling to pay bills, various circumstances strip her of her finances and she winds up with a mere $60 in her pocket. While Isaiah wants his grandmother to use the money for groceries, she opts to continue tithing to her church, despite her grandson’s wishes. While Isaiah struggles to understand her faith, he later finds that those who are patient and trust in God are ultimately blessed.
Based on a true story, Isaiah Wait explores many pertinent issues in the Black community that countless people can identify with.
“When I heard the story, it inspired and encouraged me to hear how faithful this grandmother was in the midst of all her struggles,” Roberts said.
He added that he also wanted to tell the story to dispel some of negative perceptions some people hold about spiritual practices, like tithing.
“Tithing itself in many cases has been looked upon in many negative lights,” he said.
“I wanted to show some of the positive things that can come about ”
The 20-minute short premiered at the film festival on March 8 and was nominated for a handful of awards. Roberts said he felt honored that his film was selected from such a myriad of participants, mainly because spiritual films are rarely featured at the event.
“The D.C. Film Festival is not a Christian film festival,” he said. “I found out during the premiere that they generally get a lot of spiritual films, but they don’t accept them. But, they looked beyond that and found quality, so that made it a little bit better for me.”
The experience at the festival opened more doors for the District native, as he was approached by a few sponsors at the event who offered to fund his next project.
The recent success is like a dream come true for Roberts, who became interested in filming while attending Morgan State University. After graduating, he enrolled at Ohio University’s school of film. But his love for his hometown drew him back to the District, where he currently resides.
Though many may believe Roberts faces a tough road ahead in today’s industry as a Black filmmaker, he insists otherwise, and recalls a message that was given to him early on in his career.
“My advisor told me, ‘You are not a Black filmmaker, you are a filmmaker who just happens to be Black,’ and I understood and appreciated that,” Roberts said. “I want people to remember the quality that I bring to them, rather than who I am as a person. So, regardless of what color I am, I’m going to always push to work with a diverse group of people to embrace a universal concept that everyone can appreciate.”
View the ‘Isaiah Wait’ Trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOVxfByenek