‘Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project’ filmmakers talk Oscars short list + movie’s importance

It was near the end of a 25-minute conversation ABC Audio had with the filmmakers of Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project when Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson briefly spoke about the documentary being short-listed for the Oscars. 

The only comment came from Stephenson, who said, “We’re very excited about that, enjoying the moment and we’ll see what happens next.”

Speaking about the honor, which advances the movie in the Documentary Feature Film category at the upcoming 96th awards, was an extension of a thought Stephenson shared about Going to Mars being one of the projects they’re most proud of. 

It’s because the film helped them to grow as artists, they say, and because of how important it is for people to learn about the revolutionary life and work of trailblazing poet Nikki Giovanni.   

“Imagine making a documentary about an African American woman who basically is a chronicler of our time,” Brewster said. “She brings to us a history and a viewpoint that’s unparalleled.”

The documentary, now streaming on Max, follows Giovanni, who was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movement to publish pivotal poetry and nonfiction essays on topics ranging from race to societal issues.

Stephenson said that with the documentary, they didn’t necessarily want to tell Giovanni’s personal life story; the goal was to highlight the cultural significance of her work and activism. 

“We wanted to center her voice and the poetry that has impacted us over the years, both the personal, the historical and the political,” she said.

As for what they’d like viewers to gain from the film: “African Americans have amazing accomplishments against all odds and that ability to accomplish in the face of those obstacles is a form of resistance,” Brewster said.

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