She is a Student Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose film, Lalo’s House – a fictional piece that follows the horrors of sex-trafficking in Haiti – has tugged at the hearts of many and given a voice to little black girls across the African Diaspora.
Since her induction into the inaugural Creative Class, Kelley’s film has appeared as an official selection at the Bronze Lens Festival, Telluride Film Festival and Hollyshorts Film Festival just to name a few. The 25-minute piece won the award for Best Short Film at the 2018 Black Harvest Film Festival and a Narrative Silver Medal at the 45th Student Academy Awards. Kelley also received the Best Women Filmmakers Award at the 25th Annual Directors Guild of America Student Films Awards.
Lalo’s House has shifted the conversation on human trafficking and Kelley’s brilliance as a storyteller has shined a light on an important issue effecting many black women and girls around the world.
How did your induction into iOne Digital’s inaugural Creative Class impact your career?
Participating in the Creative Class provided me with a lot of exposure. It enabled me to expand my own network within the industry. I still keep in contact with many of the creatives from the inaugural class. It really allowed me to have a community of people that I lean on and grow with. I really have to thank iOne Digital for fostering a community that caters to creatives.
Lalo’s House has won multiple awards for its depiction of the horrors little black girls face in Haiti due to sex trafficking. What gave you the courage to tell that story?
Well I spent time in Haiti before the earthquake and witnessed the effects that sex trafficking had on little girls there. I was moved by these little black girls so I began to capture footage of what was happening. The original documentary footage that I captured during my time in Haiti actually helped me get accepted into the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. I wanted to tell their story and shine a light on an issue that often times is overlooked. I wanted to give a voice to little black girls and black women who suffer from human trafficking. It took me 10 years to finish the film and I am proud to shine a light on the story of Manouchka and Phara.
Why did you choose not to use any of the documentary footage in Lalo’s House?
Through my studies at USC, I learned that fictional narratives have the ability to reach a larger audience. Typically, people tend to go see documentaries that they already agree with so as a writer I wanted to lead them to the water and not pounce them over the head with it. I also wanted to capture the minds of people who may not be prone to even think about the horrors of human trafficking.
How would you describe your creative style?
I would say my style is a form of grungy storytelling that brings light to dark places in a gentle way. I consider myself a pot stirrer so I am always pushing to create narratives that spark conversation and better our community. The one constant with all of my work is that I always explore social issues that society ignores. Whether it’s in fantasy or reality, I always aim to shine a light on untold stories.
What is your advice for emerging female storytellers that aspire to follow in your footsteps?
The most important thing is to surround yourself with people that believe in you, find your tribe and find people that understand your passion because those are the individuals that will uplift you and push you to grow. I definitely found my tribe when I enrolled at USC and the people I have met since being inducted into the Creative Class have played a similar role.