In­side the mind of Pa­trik-Ian Polk

The ‘Black­bird’ di­rec­tor speaks on Pride, HIV, and ab­sent di­vas

GA Voice - - Black Gay Pride - By DAR­IAN AARON daaron@the­

The name Pa­trik-Ian Polk is syn­ony­mous with black gay cin­ema. A skilled and fear­less film­maker, his in­de­pen­dent films have stirred up con­ver­sa­tion and con­tro­versy. Polk be­came widely known for his ground­break­ing LOGO tele­vi­sion se­ries “Noah’s Arc” and a list of films, that in­cludes; “Punks,” “The Skinny,” “Noah’s Arc: Jump­ing The Broom,” and his most re­cent film adap­ta­tion of the Larry Du­plechan novel “Black­bird,” star­ring Os­car-win­ner Mo’Nique, all of which have ce­mented his place as a gay trail­blazer.

Ge­or­gia Voice caught up with Polk ahead of his sched­uled ap­pear­ance at the At­lanta Black Pride Welcome Re­cep­tion.

Ge­or­gia Voice: Pa­trik, you’ve at­tended At­lanta Black Gay Pride in the past. What keeps you com­ing back?

PIP: At this point, I re­ally as­so­ciate Pride cel­e­bra­tions with work. When I do at­tend, I’m usu­ally pro­mot­ing a new film pro­ject. This time around is a lit­tle more spe­cial, since we are do­ing an event with the CDC to pro­mote HIV test­ing and aware­ness and the PSA cam­paign I di­rected with the “Real Housewives of At­lanta” and “Fash­ion Queens.”

Have you had any in­ter­est­ing or mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences with fans dur­ing ATL Black Gay Pride?

The most mem­o­rable events were the ones I at­tended with my cast mem­bers, es­pe­cially dur­ing the “Noah’s Arc” hey­day. But I can say it’s al­ways nice to hear from fans of my work. I meet so many gay men, young and old, who are diehard “Noah” fans. Kids in their late teens and early 20’s who used to hide in the closet and watch the show. It means a lot to me that my work has been a pos­i­tive force for a lot of gay black men.

Why did you de­cide to take on the CDC HIV/AIDS PSA?

I’ve been work­ing on this pro­ject with the CDC for al­most two years. We all know the sta­tis­tics by now- as many as 45 per­cent of gay black men in this coun­try may be HIV pos­i­tive. And those num­bers con­tinue to grow. My ini­tial pitch to the CDC was to fea­ture a ma­jor celebrity of im­por­tance to the GBM com­mu­nity- to use their pop­u­lar­ity to more ef­fec­tively de­liver HIV mes­sag­ing to gay black men. Af­ter ap­proach­ing a host of ma­jor black fe­male celebs we were un­able to find one who’d agree to ap­pear in our cam­paign. Ev­ery sin­gle one of them said ‘no’. I was in­cred­i­bly dis­heart­ened that not one of these dozen or so A-list black celebrity fe­males was will­ing to stand up, on cam­era and ap­peal to their gay black fans about their health and well-be­ing. We’re fine to dust your face, beat your wig, deck you out in the latest red car­pet fash­ions, but when it comes to en­gag­ing with us on a mean­ing­ful level such as HIV aware­ness, I got crick­ets.

But I’m a lat­eral thinker, so I kept push­ing. And I no­ticed my twit­ter feed was full of RHOA tweets ev­ery Sun­day night. It was clear that RHOA and its cast mem­bers were ex­tremely pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially among gay black men. So I reached out to my friends Kenya Moore, and “Fash­ion Queens” stars Derek J and Miss Lawrence- they all agreed to be in the PSA and they also helped con­nect me to Claudia Jor­dan and Cyn­thia Bai­ley. The RHOA cast gets a lot of flack and neg­a­tive press, but they are brave hero­ines in my eyes.

Mar­riage equal­ity is now le­gal na­tion­wide. You por­trayed a same-sex mar­riage on “Noah’s Arc” well be­fore it was le­gal in most states. Why was it im­por­tant for you to show two black gay char­ac­ters mak­ing that com­mit­ment?

I made “Noah’s Arc” sim­ply be­cause I wanted to see gay black men on tele­vi­sion. I also wanted to see black gay men lov­ing other black gay men on tele­vi­sion. And I fig­ured if no one else is gonna show this, then I guess I’ll have to do it. You look at tele­vi­sion to­day and we’re still not there. Ev­ery gay black char­ac­ter on a cur­rent scripted tele­vi­sion se­ries has a non-black boyfriend, hus­band or lover. We draw a lot of life lessons and in­spi­ra­tion from pop cul­ture, so the fact that young black gay kids grow up never see­ing im­ages of them­selves lov­ing other black men is a big prob­lem.

Why was it im­por­tant for you to bring your re­cent film “Black­bird” to the screen?

I’ve wanted to make this movie since I was a fresh­man in col­lege when I dis­cov­ered Lar- ry Du­plechan’s bril­liant com­ing-of-age novel. We haven’t had a lot of black gay com­ing-ofage films, es­pe­cially with a re­li­gious theme. So I’m glad the film lives now and peo­ple ev­ery­where can see it on iTunes and Net­flix.

What can fans ex­pect from your next pro­ject?

I wrote and di­rected an episode of a new se­ries pro­duced by MTV for Net­flix called “We Are Lovers.” That’ll be out next year. And the “Black­bird” sound­track comes out later this month. Be­yond that, you’ll have to wait and see. I wait un­til some­thing’s ready be­fore I start bump­ing my gums about it.

“We’re fine to dust your face, beat your wig, deck you out in the latest red car­pet fash­ions, but when it comes to en­gag­ing with us on a mean­ing­ful level such as HIV aware­ness, I got crick­ets.”

—Pa­trik-Ian Polk, film­maker

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