Through the Lens with Maria Soccor

Maria Soccor will make her Austin debut as a film director on Saturday, Aug. 15, at Palmer Events Center when her documentary, Lords of BSV, is presented during the Capitol City Black Film Festival.

A native of New Jersey, Soccor began her acting career when she joined Gallman’s Newark Dance Theatre and was cast in Club Twelve, an off-Broadway, hip-hop rendition ofTwelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Soccor starred alongside MC Lyte, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Lisa Nicole Carson.

Lords of BSV takes Soccor back to her dance roots as it chronicles the Bed Stuy Veterans, a dance group from Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, in which two factions led by Christopher “Blackie” Davis and Shawn “Poba” Theagene join to revive Kingston, Jamaica, native George Adams’s style of Bruk Up dance.

“If you don’t have the stomach for filmmaking, the process can spin out of control. I learned that I had to stay in control, be a leader and be a decision maker.”

Adams limps; so, he was nicknamed Bruk Up in Jamaica. It’s a patois for “Broke Up.” He developed his freestyle dance in Jamaican dancehalls and brought it to Brooklyn’s Afro-Caribbean neighborhoods, where dancers mimicked and then individualized his contorted, mutating movements until the form died down in the early nineties.

Soccor, who started her film company—Maria Soccor Productions—as a high-end event planning business, taught herself film lenses and camera work and is blunt about her first attempt as a filmmaker. “I’m not going to lie to you. It was hard as hell,” she laughs. “If you don’t have the stomach for filmmaking, the process can spin out of control. I learned that I had to stay in control, be a leader and be a decision maker.”

The result is an award-winning film, a big deal for any filmmaker but especially true for a first-timer. For example, Soccor won Best Director of a Feature Documentary at the Madrid International Film Festival.

“After it was said done and BSV and I saw the film together for the first time at the Visionfest film festival in New York, I felt that I had done one of the most important things in my life by telling the story the way that it should have been told and breaking all of the stereotypes,” Soccor says. “I felt that I really did something positive by not producing a story about young Black men getting into trouble. In essence, I wanted to produce a story that had dignity.”

Visionfest awarded Lords of BSV Best Documentary.

“I will take that with me the rest of my life because BSV were so proud of it,” Soccor adds. “There was a reason that people wanted to be like BSV, and that’s because of all of the positive things that they do and the way that they live their life.”

Soccor, who is multiracial, is indicative of the diversity that is the power of Black film festivals. Soccor attributes the diversity in Black festivals to the broad scope of the African diaspora, people who can trace some of their racial heritage to Africa. The diaspora connects to so many cultures, including Asian, Latino and white, and the films, crews and their networks tend toward diversity.

“When we have a Black film festival, we can discuss what we think and we’re not just being portrayed, and you are going to strengthen community in a way that’s not present at Tribeca or South-By-Southwest. It’s strengthening the community and the movement,” Soccor says.

Soccor is considering opportunities for directing a narrative feature film, while continuing work on ongoing documentary projects, including one about international trafficking of women and one about Renzo Gracie, a founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She also conceived a comic,Spear, in which the protagonist is a highly intelligent multiracial woman who is a graduate of West Point and works for Black Ops. Spear will premiere at Comic-Con International: New York City in October 2015.


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