Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and raised in Portland, Maine, Daniel Kayamba is a Chicago-based filmmaker and photographer. A Columbia College Chicago 2021 graduate, Kayamba’s last short film Flowers and Bikes (2020) premiered at The Savannah College of Art and Design film festival as part of their global shorts forum - a program committed to sharing stories about the Black experience internationally. Through using mixed media and genre bending storytelling he explores representation, inclusivity and youth culture in the lives of minorities.
My vision for Room Rodeo was to push the boundaries of Black boyhood on screen, capturing the limitless and sprawling nature of a child’s mind while honoring the Black cowboy’s place in American history. Where Black boys grow to be Black men, many of the stories centering them can already bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. I was intrigued by the narrative being told in Room Rodeo where my collaborators Lola Mosanya and Chloe Herring, the producers and co-writers on the project, pushed against this. Children know disappointment only fleetingly, and it was my mission to reflect this in the wonder and resilience of the protagonist, as well as in the look and feel of the film. Playing with montage, changing aspect ratio and layering mixed media documentary footage were all central to this. As a boy, I didn’t always have heroes that looked like me, so I often held on to pockets of inspiration tightly, amplifying them, just like Jamil. My hope is for Jamil to be a mirror to kids that are going to watch him, inspiring them to be curious and excited about their family history - whatever that might be.
Room Rodeo is a drama-documentary hybrid where a wide-eyed boy takes matters into his own hands in order to prove he is the great grandson of a legendary Black cowboy.
His dad stands him up. He acts out. Now, with a history project due, 10-year-old Jamil is on punishment in his room. If only his dad would tell him about his great grandpa, rodeo star Billie P – like he promised. But just when Jamil’s dad calls and things begin to look up, the cool kid from class calls with a humiliating declaration: Black cowboys aren’t real. Now, Jamil must drum up the courage to discover the truth on his own – all from the confines of his room. With some help from a dubious heirloom, Jamil puts aside whispers of doubt to transport himself into a world rich with history and affirming images where he claims authorship of his story.
The film was produced and shot on a soundstage in Chicago as part of producers Lola Mosanya and Chloe Herring's Columbia College Chicago MFA Creative Producing thesis, for which Chloe Herring was awarded a DCASE City of Chicago Independent Artist Program grant for 2021 on behalf of the project. Lola is a Black British producer originally from London and Chloe is a African American Producer originally from Florida but with our thesis film we really wanted to pay homage to our Chicago chapter of life through the casting decisions and research for the documentary portion of our film. Room Rodeo celebrates and gives a platform to Black Cowboys and their communities all over the US including those on the south side of Chicago.
If you grew up, or live in, Chicago, you may not have had much access to horseriding. Luckily for us, the Broken Arrow Horseback Riding Club is right in Chicago and provides riders of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and abilities the opportunity to saddle up.
Learn more about Room Rodeo and the incredible history the film engages at the Room Rodeo Official Website.
Note: Letter from Jamil to Billie P. 20 years in the Future August 18th, 2042 To William Pickett aka Billie P.: Hey Great Grandad. Another year, another birthday and again being so happy that I started this tradition with you all those years ago. Actually, during the last move I found that assignment and everything came rushing back instantly. Dad’s choppy recollection, the stress of telling your story to a room full of uninterested kids, the joy of flipping through the family album and the welcomed break of inspiration when it all finally came together. I’d never been so excited to write a report before and rarely have I been since and you know what my teacher gave me? A B! For all my enthusiasm and research, she gave me a B! Laughing about it now and I guess I forgot that part since it felt like an A+ in my heart. I’m thinking of making it my class’ first assignment this semester. This year the school theme is “Hidden Histories” and since everyone saw that movie I wrote about you last year, there’s been a push to focus on those legends tucked away in our family trees. I wonder what will be revealed. Perhaps you recall a few birthdays ago, when I was still in the fifth grade trenches, a student telling me about her Aunt, who no one seemed to want to admit, was absolutely behind the 2030 Tesla Hack. She’s a hero for reasons that are hard to explain in detail to someone who’s been gone for over a century but know, she struck real fear into the hearts of the rich and arrogant and the rest of us were comforted by that resonant week of power until today. She altered the course of history just like you. Just like many who do but, don’t get to enjoy the fruits of those accomplishments because of the forces behind the foundations they shake. I know I say this every year and I’ll keep saying it for every year I have – this is what you’ve done for me. Just knowing I was related to someone who bucked (sorry couldn’t help it) the expectations of an unforgiving society to know the peace of living an authentic and unapologetic life gave me the courage to do the same. Now, I’m no cowboy and I’ve only been to two rodeos in my life decades apart but that spirit – I like to believe – is in me. It expresses itself in how I hold court with my students and inform them about the legacies they are born from despite not knowing it, yet. Revealing to them the shared stories within our community that were stripped from us to deprive us from understanding the individual greatness within. That embracing my gifts, the gifts we’re meant to have – are not supposed to be the ones that appeal to us out of desire for another’s destiny but are meant for a greater shared destiny. Well, that’s all for now, talk next year Great Grandad. Love, Jamil
Joyy Norris is a Chicago born and reared freelance creative and writer. Her work is significantly influenced by her identity as a Black American woman invested in discovering solutions to the issues that plague society through art, conversation and imagination. She finds value in these pursuits through the dynamic and effective forms of documentary film and podcasting. Producing stories on heritage, personal enrichment and just chatting it up through an agency-driven lens, defines her work in media.