Kasi LemmonsMar 12, 2021
Proust Questionnaire 34
Kasi Lemmons, Film Director
New Books Network 2021
Kasi Lemmons is an award-winning director, writer, actress and professor who has been a staple in Hollywood for nearly three decades. Her acclaimed 1997 feature directorial debut, “Eve’s Bayou, was inducted into the National Film Registry, and is considered among the first to showcase the beauty of African American Southern culture. The film received the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and the National Board of Review bestowed her with a special first-time director award. “Eve’s Bayou” marked Samuel L. Jackson’s debut as a film producer and helped launch the careers of actresses Megan Good and Jurnee Smollett.
Lemmons’ sophomore feature, “The Caveman's Valentine,” opened the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, while her third film, “Talk to Me,” earned the 2008 NAACP Image Award for outstanding directing. She also adapted Langston Hughes’ musical “Black Nativity” for the big screen in 2013.
Her latest opus is “Harriet,” a deeply resonant and powerful drama based on the life of American icon Harriet Tubman. Starring Cynthia Enviro in the titular role, “Harriet” was released by Focus Features in late 2019. “Harriet” received two Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, and ten NAACP Award nominations
Kasi was an executive producer on “Self Made,” the Madam CJ Walker limited series on Netflix starring Octavia Spencer, to which she also directed two episodes.
As an actress, Lemmons appeared in such notable films as Jonathan Demme’s ‘Silence of the Lambs,” John Woo’s ‘Hard Target,” and Spike Lee’s “School Daze.”
Lemmons has worked extensively as a mentor and educator, and currently serves as an Arts Professor in the Graduate Film Department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has shared her passion for writing and teaching with institutions across the world, including Yale University, MIT, USC, UCLA, Los Angeles Film School, and The University Pristina Film School in Kosovo. Lemmons holds an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters from Salem State Collage. She has served on the board of Film Independent since 2004.
Along with Academy-Award nominated composer Terrence Blanchard, Lemmons recently added librettist to her formidable body of work, creating the stage adaptation of Charles Blow’s New York Times bestselling memoir “Fire Shut up in My Bones,” for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis.
We talked to Kasi about her current projects before asking her Proust's 35 questions that reveal which person Lemmons admires most, what she considers happiness, which artists inspire her, who is her greatest love, her greatest achievement, her greatest regret, and what is her motto, among other things.
Find out more Kasi's family history in the most recent episode of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s, Finding Your Roots, where she appears in an episode with Pharrell Williams.
Ulrich Baer is University Professor at New York University where he teaches literature and photography, and writes frequently about photography, art, literature, and other subjects. He is also the host of the podcast “Think About It” and editorial director at Warbler Press. Caroline Weber is a specialist of French literature, history, and culture. She is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York City.