Pierre and Jamyla Bennu
Piere Bennu and Jamyla Bennu are a multi-talented pair of artists who moved from New York to Baltimore in what they described as a “nomadic sort of art story.” They have lived in Baltimore for over five years, but still talk as if they feel new to the city. Pierre used to work on Wall Street, but explained that the stress of the job was overwhelming and unfulfilling. He and Jamyla made a pledge to work on anything they could as long as it was self-funded. This led to a successful website and business selling natural soaps. In addition, they began to work on successful videos. Their first project video called “Damn” is an exploration of space, making it a clear character in the film. Pierre was even approached by Disney to create a film about a homeless man who claims that he is Michael Jackson and has stories defending his assertion.
Pierre explained that when starting a piece of cinema, it is best to begin the project as both black and white and silent. This is the foundation and there is no reason to add onto it unless it is completely necessary. His inspiration really comes then from the fundamentals of cinema. When he was a kid, he used to watch videos with his brother without sound and the two would simply make up the dialogue. Eventually he got an editing suite and would cut together pieces from the films.
Still in New York City, Pierre and Jamyla began work on a feature film. This was shot in 2002 and was intended to be a satire on daytime television about a group of actors attempting to break the wall between stage and performance. The editing took 14 months and exhausted them both mentally and financially.
Eventually, Pierre and Jamyla decided to travel around to find investors and teaching positions. In 2005, they ended up in Baltimore not knowing anyone. Pierre’s work ranges dramatically in tone and style and it is impossible to pin down exactly what may represent his videos. One of his pieces, entitled “Larry” is described on the vimeo page as “a sardonic story/song.” The animated piece is certainly a much different piece of work then a silent black and white film. In addition, his “Black Barbie” videos, which was influenced by the gender and racial stereotypes consistently reinforced on television and in the media. Pierre described how when he was a kid he was excited to see “Superman” on the big screen. He remembered the one black character in the entire film was a one line racial stereotype. This cause young Pierre to question his appreciation for the movie and also made him really think about racial representation in the media.
Pierre and Jamyla Bennu create work that encompasses ideas and techniques that stretch across multiple art forms. Their work continues to innovate and remain original in an age when so much art is mass produced content from massive corporations instead of independent work.