19 Oct Somebody’s Beloved ~ The Directorial Debute of Malik Martin
This month the talented young artist Jonathan Malik Martin celebrates his directorial debut in the new video for the latest expression of singer/songwriter Milck titled Somebody’s Beloved. Set in his home town of Memphis, Tennessee, Malik brings all of his storytelling skills to bear in this subtly powerful narrative that depicts the personal devastation brought on by the shattering impact of gun violence in the Black community.
The remarkable vision of the photojournalist known as Malik Tha Martian, first came to my attention through Instagram. Like many avid users of the platform I was attracted by the raw and visceral imagery he captured during the social justice protests that blazed across the nation through the summer of 2020. His photographs reveal the deep human emotion of people in Memphis as they gathered in solidarity to stand against the continuing presence of institutional racism and a community plagued by racially motivated police violence. Naturally I was a fan. But in addition to his work on the streets of the neighborhood called Soulsville, Malik’s feed also includes exciting shots of urban sport climbing and sweeping landscapes set in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado.
As it happens Malik and I had crossed paths more than a year ago at the MountainFilm Festival in Telluride. Though we hadn’t met at the time, he was part of the cohort of young climbing enthusiasts brought to the event by director and film producer Tom Shadyack. This creator of high grossing movies starring Jim Carrey, like Ace Ventura Pet Detective and Bruce Almighty had used his wealth and influence to create a state of the art climbing gym in Tennessee called Memphis Rox. Set in the mostly Black Soulesville community, the gym is a center of culture and creativity where Malik and others are given the opportunity to express themselves through the sport of rock climbing, as well as photography and filmmaking.
It was at this intersection of seemingly disparate passions during MountainFilm where Malik and Milck met. The songwriter was a favorite featured performer throughout much of the festival and through the power of proximity the two creatives became acquainted. As part of the Memphis Rox community Malik has also forged relationships with climbers like Conrad Anker and Sam Elias as well as adventure photographer and Oscar-winning filmmaker Jimmy Chin. With the support and encouragement of leading media producers in the outdoor industry Malik is ascending as a climber and now as the director of his first video project.
“My exposure through the outdoors and Memphis Rox has changed the trajectory of my career completely,” Malik told me. “Memphis Rox gave me the foundation to learn a new skill and reinvent myself as a photographer because I had to relearn photography when I applied climbing to it. Mountainfilm showed me that there is a community for creatives like me to showcase their work.”
It’s in this new video that Malik’s passions come full circle. Though not demonstrated directly in the themes or images of the film, the relationships and circumstances that guided its creation are grounded in the mountain culture of which Malik is now a part. As a visual storyteller he creates an illustration of Milck’s poignant words to make visible the heartrending lyrics that describe the unimaginable loss of a child to a mother who can only ask in protest “Why Doesn’t Everybody Scream?!?”
As the principal character in the film creates a sign, paints her face and dons a power salute T-shirt in preparation for yet another Black Lives Matter demonstration the viewer may themselves ask the same question. In our shared experience of human endeavor at this intersection of outdoor recreation, popular music and social justice we might find solace in the understanding that we share more in common than we realize. Though not itself inspired by mountains or the natural world per se, the film and its story are ultimately made possible through the artists’ combined vision prompted by a well fated encounter in Colorado. And it is through the power of storytelling that we might define a cultural environment in which all people can apply their talents and skills to craft a narrative here everyone is much beloved.