Ricardo Bouyett is a filmmaker from Chicago. He just finished he lastest film BADDIE and we are very excited to share it with you. A dance film set in the northside neighbourhoods of Chicago, BADDIE examines Tris as she navigates her self-worth. Despite her closest friends trying to make her feel a part of their group, she dissociates and falls further into her cycle of self-deprecation and isolation. From being an on-call therapist for others to breaking down outside of Town Hall, Tris’ inner flux between the truth and her perception of things reminds us that sometimes we must limp in before we can leap out. Through underpass adventures, dancing with her closest friends and crying on the CTA, Tris comes to discover what she needs to break the cycle.
How do our perceived hurts match with reality? Oftentimes they don’t. They’re a version of it that makes sense to us because we’re experiencing them. It’s hard to bridge that divide especially if you’re not surrounded by people with the emotional acumen to pull you from the brink of self-isolation. But, when you are surrounded by people that can? It’s magic. It takes a rare kind of fearlessness to admit to the people closest to you that you don’t feel loved by them. That you aren’t emotionally fulfilled within the connections you’re in and that you’re looking for a way to fix that. In BADDIE specifically, I wanted to explore the dissonance between how we may perceive that others don’t love us versus the reality that they’re trying, just in their way. It’s a badass thing to be so emotionally raw and vulnerable with people because in that rawness exists an objective truth that no amount of perception can contort or manipulate: it just is what it is. And what it is, is pure poetry. While feelings aren’t the truth, they are true in their influence and hold the weight that can sometimes be too much for someone to carry alone.
The themes in BADDIE all intertwine with the concept of inherent value and the dichotomy between varied cultural experiences of emotional expression and mental health maintenance. We see that with how easy Tris’s friends seem to be able to navigate their shared world all the while she is weighed down in her overthinking and constant analysis of where she stands. Instead of rejecting her, Liv and Aly stand with her in this cyclical movement of “give and take” to help her carry and release these emotions. Upon review, Tris can be read as a representation of the experience of WOC when it comes to emotional labor. In a way, this illustrates a collectively shared experience of seeking a sure resounding place in the world where we matter. Circumstantially it varies between everyone but at its core, it’s still the same. Despite the challenges and obstacles I’ve faced with this film, I’m so grateful for the team involved in making it come together. With everything in place, we were able to craft an honest story about vulnerability being our most powerful tool.
Ricardo and I knew that our next project together would have elements of dance and self-discovery but weren’t exactly sure where those impulses would take us. As BADDIE went through many rewrites we quickly realized that we wanted to focus on how we, as humans, perceive ourselves and continue to participate in or break cycles of isolation and negative self-worth. Dance naturally complements the exploration of these concepts. When dancing together, you are part of a whole and know you aren’t alone because the choreography is holding everyone together regardless of place or distance. What I love about dance is that you have to believe in your body, even at the smallest level to dance. For example, I can’t doubt my turns and then complete a turn. This action helps our main character, Tris (played by Hayley Carbonaro), explore self- worth in a positive way instead of the negative self-talk and judgment that her mind falls into.
For creating the dance and movement in BADDIE, it was a really fluid process. The cast members have various experiences in dance so I came in with a choreographic concept to start. We rehearsed and developed the choreography to fit each person’s ability while maintaining cohesive unity and continuity with the rest of the film. As the film progresses the dance is interwoven to be moments of freedom in this friendship, it’s a way for these 3 women to be together regardless of how they are feeling. Sometimes that can be unifying like we see under the bridge and in the bar and other times it highlights the isolation Tris feels.
BADDIE is a film that at the time it was shot, is a recognizable moment in any person’s life. It has the distinct feel of a city culture, which in the largeness and rush of a city – exacerbates the struggle with self-identity. Riding trains, going to bars, hanging out with friends but feeling off and not knowing how or why this is what Tris is dealing within the film. That inner struggle is something we all go through (oftentimes more than once!) as we grow and find out who we are.
In this new COVID world we live in, BADDIE takes on a new light. The questions around inner struggle are still present but it comes across now as an ode to friendships that hold us together while we struggle. Those friendships are crucial now and I hope BADDIE can remind us that we are supported whenever we feel off or alone. It may look different now but we will be back dancing and creating physically together soon!
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Steve Matthew Carter