INTRODUCING MALA FOREVER – THE MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM OF 2019 0 118

As a platform that as a whole is a hugely impressive creative lab for the radical femme revolution, with original film projects, an editorial digital magazine and commissioned work, Mala Forever, set up by Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov and launched in November of last year, is leading the way when it comes to new and upfront platforms that champion the art of creativity and expression. With a busy year ahead, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Nina and Jessie to find out more about the creation of Mala Forever, the power and impact of social media on its audience and their two upcoming film releases.

TITL: Please introduce yourselves if you would.

Mala Forever: We are Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov, the co-founders and directors of Mala Forever – a radical feminist film studio, digital platform, creative agency, and community.

TITL: How do the two of you know each other and how did you come up with the idea for Mala Forever? Why did you feel that now was the right time to launch the platform?

MF: Mala Forever is a concept we have been dreaming up pretty much the whole time we’ve known each other – we met as film students at NYU where we bonded through our love of queer feminist stories, and have been best friends and creative partners ever since. Mala is the culmination of our diverse leadership experience in film and video, community-based social justice, and fine art and design.

We are part of a unique cultural moment, in which sexism, white male supremacy and heteronormativity in media and entertainment are finally being discussed at the level of national discourse. Now is the time for us to band together and build lasting creative infrastructure, not just for ourselves but in community with marginalized creators.

TITL: What would you say the other brings to MF? Do you each put your own ‘stamps’ on the site and its content in some way?

Nina: Jessie is a very earthly being. She keeps me grounded with a lot of warm energy and her genuine love of people. She’s amazing at documentary and verite filmmaking, and super crafty. We each have really distinct personal aesthetics, and it’s been fun crafting a brand that satisfies both of our sensibilities, kind of like a shared, essential feminist language that we both have. It’s always helpful to have each other as thought partners, and I think we both understand that the most brilliant ideas we have tend to be the ones we’re both really excited about.

Jessie: Nina is brilliant and fierce and I feel lucky every-day to have her as my vision partner. She brings fire and conviction to decision making – which is grounding and inspiring for me and something I struggle with. I love her aesthetic and sense of color – and have always been not only her collaborator and bestie but such a big fan and admirer of her work as an artist. We each bring distinct strengths and experiences to the table, and our shared core values, politics, and vision for Mala Forever makes it really exciting to be building this together – the work is better for it and so are we.

TITL: How would you sum up Mala Forever in a few words?

MF: Bold creative fempire.

TITL: What makes Mala Forever different from the many other online platforms/sites that are out there?

MF: We are not just a film studio, a digital content platform, or a creative agency – we are all of the above! It’s important to us to build a creative engine that truly addresses our audience and customers’ needs, puts resources directly into the hands of marginalized filmmakers and creators, and builds community around radical feminist stories and values. There’s a lot of lip service to inclusion and representation, but not enough creative companies are building community equity into their business structure, and are still falling back on the same systems and modes of production that have contributed to our industry’s toxicity all along. As Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We have to do things in a radically new way, and that’s what we’re doing.

TITL: Who/which age range(s) is MF specifically targeted to and how are you ensuring you accommodate to the needs of those individuals?

MF: Our core audience is intersectional, millennial, and engaged in political resistance. There is a real hunger in our community for representation that crosses cultural boundaries and reflects our community as a complex but powerful coalition of people who share a feminist world view and lived experience of cultural otherness.

TITL: How important is and will social media be in order for you to grow your audience? Do you think eventually all physical content platforms might fade into obscurity and EVERYTHING will be online?

MF: Both the physical and digital worlds offer important possibilities for how we can connect with our community. Social media is critical to how we build and grow with our community; that being said, the physical realm is where our sense of home and community is born, and where many of us are threatened simply for being who we are. So it’s equally important to invest in physical spaces where we feel safe, can share stories and create together, as it is to invest in the digital spaces where we can communicate in revolutionary and evolving ways.

TITL: You’ve shot a short film, “Baby”, set for release in June and a feature film, “The Wild Ones” in the works. Is there anything you can tell me about either of these two projects?

MF: Baby​ is a queer coming-of-age love story set in New York City that confronts themes of LGBTQ identity and toxic masculinity. Shot stylistically as narrative cinema verite, Baby introduces us to the world of Ali, a Dominican teenager from the Bronx, on a Saturday afternoon. ​Baby​ will be released to our community during PRIDE month, June 2019.

It was the first film we produced together as Mala Forever, and was very much made possible by the support of our community. Jessie has spent the last ten years working as a youth media educator in New York City public schools – and this work was inspired by her deep love for making media with young people – many of whom starred in the film!

The Wild Ones​ is our first feature-length film, which we are co-directing. It is a coming-of-age road film about two best friends who go on the ride of their lives with a nomadic tribe of lesbian separatists. We co-wrote the screenplay, and are currently shifting into early development, building the project and community around the film from the ground up.

TITL: As two people who create original content, run a digital magazine and complete commissioned work for/with brands and organizations, how do you find time to unwind, and when you do have a minute or a period to yourself, what do you like to do? 

N: Honestly, work has never been more fun! But making time for myself and the people in my life is key to my happiness. I journal a lot. I love to sing and dance. When I’m feeling emotional, I’ll write poetry or paint. Exercise, home cooking, meditation, and getting enough sleep all do wonders for my health. And of course – watching movies!

J: I’m an Aries, and thus historically have had a hard time being still – so stillness and quiet is something I am excited to cultivate more of in 2019. When I’m not working on Mala, I love making things with my hands (I have a secret life as a jewelry and clothing designer), spending quality time with people I love over meals and on dancefloors, seeing art and films that inspire me, and taking long walks in Brooklyn.  

TITL: What’s the long term goal for Mala Forever? As a newly launched site, how worried are you about the competition and market, and how do you plan to overcome any bumps in the road you might face?

MF: We are building the creative studio our community has been waiting for, brick by brick, by any means necessary. The challenges are manifold, but we keep each other strong and grounded in our vision. Our radical, inclusive, feminist, queer audience is much larger than we’ve been led to believe, and is growing rapidly. The whole landscape needs to change, through a communal effort that goes beyond any individual company or artist. So when it comes to fellow filmmakers who are telling authentic stories from our community, we are rooting for them. Our real competition is not each other, but the existing systems of power and oppression that we’re all working to change.

For more information on Mala Forever, visit the website. You can also follow Mala Forever on Twitter and Instagram.

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BLUE OYSTER CULT TALK THEIR UPCOMING UK TOUR & 50 YEAR CAREER 0 56

With a career that spans 50 years behind them already, Blue Oyster Cult have firmly established themselves as one of the music industry’s most illustrious bands, respected by music fans and critics on both sides of the Atlantic. As the band prepare to make a long overdue return to the UK, guitarist and song-writer Buck Dharma teased what fans can expect from their upcoming shows and reflected on the bands’ career and success so far.

Q: Are you looking forward to coming back to the UK? What do you most enjoy and how does playing here compare to back home in the States?

Buck Dharma: Yes I am. I have enjoyed the UK since first coming in 1975. I like the difference in culture and customs compared to the US, and revisiting friends and fans I’ve gotten to know over the years.

Q: What are some of your favourite memories of playing in the UK? Any previous shows that have always stuck with you?

BD: I’m looking forward to playing what used to be called Hammersmith Odeon in London again. We had great shows there in the heyday of Blue Oyster Cult and look forward to returning. Otherwise I like to get out into the countryside and visit the other cities and towns in the country.

Q: If at all, how have you adapted and developed your live production and your approach to playing your music live over the decades?

BD: We are currently touring with less special effects and props, focusing primarily on the music and the musical performance. It’s essentially what it’s all about, and I enjoy concentrating on that aspect of our musical catalogue.

Q: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is such a great track that has really stood the test of time. How does it feel to have a song that is so universally recognised and loved, even in 2019? Has the song’s success continued to surpass your initial expectations for the track?

BD: It’s great that “Reaper” has held up so well over time. It’s endurance continues to surprise and gratify me, and yes, I had no idea when we recorded it that it would have had the impact it has.

Q: A lot has changed within the Rock community since you first started, but are there any current rock artists that have impressed you over the last few years? Any albums you’re particularly enjoying at the moment?

BD: I like The Rival Sons and the new youngsters Greta Van Fleet. I also discovered last year a 2015 album by Chris Cornell called “Higher Truth.”

Q: Your last studio album, Curse of the Hidden Mirrors was released 18 years ago – any current plans to make another record?

BD: As matter of fact, yes. BOC is recording another LP this year, 2019, the first in many years. Should be out by fall.

Q: You have worked and toured with the likes of Patti Smith, Randy Jackson and Alice Cooper over the course of your career – any highlights or people you still have on the wish list?

BD: All our collaborations and touring have been rewarding. I’m open to collaborating with anybody, perhaps some of the younger artists, although I don’t actively pursue such cooperation.

Q: You have been doing this for over 50 years now which is incredible. Having reached such a large milestone in your career, what inspires you to keep going and keeps you motivated?

BD: I enjoy playing and singing as much today as I ever did. I don’t have to work, but I do it because it’s rewarding personally. I could live if I couldn’t do it anymore, but I truly enjoy it, and will do it for another couple years at least.

Q: If you could turn back time, is there anything you would change or do differently?

BD: I have no regrets. It might be nice to have known more about the business side of the Music industry, but I’m not complaining about the way it’s gone. I’m lucky to have worked at a job I like all my life.

Q: Finally, knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give your former self when first starting out, and what advice would you give to anyone wanting to be in a band now?

BD: Only that I should prepare for a long career. I never anticipated I’d be still doing what I did in my 20’s fifty years later. I don’t know what to advise young people today. I’m not really involved in the current state of music business, it’s changing rapidly, of course, like everything else in life.

Tickets for Blue Oyster Cult’s UK tour, which kicks off on February 21st, are on sale now. For more information on the band, visit their website or give their page a like on Facebook.

MATT DOBKIN CHATS ‘SIX SONGS OF PROTEST’ & HIS VIEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA 0 67

Music has always been an outlet for artists keen to share their views – personal, political and everything in between – and for Matt Dobkin, thanks to his new, upcoming EP Six Songs Of Protest, it’s allowed him to express himself in exactly the way he wishes to be heard. Frustrated and shocked by the outcome of the 2016 US election and all that has occurred and impacted both the States and the world since, his new collection addresses issues such as police brutality, the environment and White House corruption. Having just released the first single from the EP, “They Warned Us”, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Matt to delve a little deeper into his political views, the impact of social media on his career and how happy he is to see more of his artistic counterparts speaking out about issues that matter.

TITL: Hi Matt. Sum yourself up in a few words for me please.

Matt Dobkin: Right now? In 2019? Pissed off.

TITL: What would you say is your unique selling point as an artist? What makes you stand out? 

MD: My aim as an artist right now is to express my frustration, distress, and anger with the current state of the world. And I think – or at least hope! – that that’s a selling point, because I’m certainly not alone. I would like to think that my voice, lyrics, and political point of view might, to some small degree in today’s landscape, help me stand out.

TITL: Growing up, which bands and artists were you most inspired by and how do those inspirations influence the music you make now? 

MD: How much space do you have? As a very little kid, I would listen to whatever was on pop radio and sing along; whether that was Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, or Eagles. I was a total 80s pop obsessive: Prince, Michael, post-Barracuda pop Heart, Yaz, U2, and George Michael. In high school, I got the retro jazz/soul bug and I became fixated on Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. I discovered Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, and I “came home” to the 60s/70s soul space that would become – and remain – my main inspiration. But, I also had a classical-music background and I’m sure that all these various influences have informed what I do now. It’s a big ol’ mash-up, as it is for most musicians.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, which song would you say is the greatest ever written and why?

MD: Greatest song ever written? Impossible to answer. Different songs evoke different feelings and mean different things to different people. Not to be a killjoy, but I’m not really into pitting one song against another. In terms of my personal inspirations, I have two different lists, the “singing” list and the “songwriting” list. As a singer, Aretha Franklin tops the list, followed closely by Al Green and Sam Cooke. As a songwriter, Prince and Joni Mitchell, which I realize sounds absurd as I’m barely fit to sweep their floors. Marvin Gaye manages to straddle both lists.

TITL: Tell me a little about your latest single “They Warned Us.” What’s the story behind it?

MD: “They Warned Us” is the first single off my forthcoming EP, Six Songs of Protest. But the song that really launched the project for me is called “Organize.” It’s inspired by Gloria Steinem and really set the tone for the whole release. Once I had committed to the idea of an all-protest-song project, I started listening to A LOT of old classic songs of resistance. Much like Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On”, and many more. I started to realize that all the issues I wanted to address in these songs had already been dealt with by these great artists, not to mention Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, etc. So the idea behind “They Warned Us” was very simple, all the problems we’re facing now, we also faced years ago. And all this stuff I want to address now was addressed decades ago. Marvin, Nina, and Dylan warned us years ago about the scenarios we find ourselves dealing with today. Nothing has changed.

TITL: As you mentioned, you’ve got an EP, Six Songs of Protest coming out soon. Without giving too much away in terms of its content, what can fans expect from the collection?

MD: In addition to “They Warned Us” and “Organize”, which is a very pointed critique of the American president. Featuring a circa-1972 sample from Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to throw her hat into the ring for U.S. president. There’s a song about the environment – “Earthquake and Hurricanes”-, a gay rights song – “The Ramble” -, a song criticizing the epidemic of police murders of black Americans – “Paid Administrative Leave” – and a cover of the great Phil Ochs’s “Power and the Glory.” You know, just fun, light, frothy entertainment.

TITL: Which of the songs on the EP might you say you’re most proud of/connected to and why?

MD: I’m really happy with how “Organize” turned out. The groove, the lyrics, and not to mention the background vocals of Teresa Stanley. She’s a killer female gospel/soul vocalist always adds authority to a song.

TITL: Your music is “overtly” political – not that that’s a bad thing in this day and age – but do you wish other artists would share such powerful and important messages through their work, or are you happy to be one of the few leading the charge?

MD: Thank you, but I wouldn’t say I’m “leading the charge.” I’m hardly alone in trying to get these messages across. I think we’re in a moment where a lot of artists – whether musicians, writers, visual artists, whatever – are addressing the kinds of political and social problems we’re all assaulted by every time we open the newspaper or a web browser. I’m genuinely excited by the fact that so many different creative people, across genres and disciplines, are finding ways to resist.

TITL: What is your tour/performance schedule for the months ahead looking like? Which one venue would you most like to play and why?

MD: I like small, intimate shows, where it’s easy to connect directly with your audience. So, I’m angling for Joe’s Pub here in New York City. But if Madison Square Garden or the O2 Centre came calling, I wouldn’t be averse…

TITL: It could be argued that social media is all but taking over the world – and certainly industries like the music business. How do you personally feel about society’s connection and obsession with the likes of Twitter? How has and does it impact your ability to reach an audience?

MD: I have friends who refuse to be on social media, and I really admire their ability to steer clear and not get sucked in. But, it’s impossible to get your music out and your message across without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s incredibly helpful in reaching people, so I can’t complain.

TITL: Are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

MD: I am completely focused on Six Songs of Protest at the moment and whatever small ways I can help prevent a re-election.

TITL: Finally then, with seemingly no end in sight to the political turmoil the world finds itself dealing with, where do you see your music going in future? Are there any other causes or views you’re maybe looking to support through future releases, and with that in mind, many years from now, what one thing would you most like people to say about you/remember you for in terms of your career and artistic legacy?

MD: When I first started singing and writing songs, I had no ambition to get into this political realm, but it’s feeling like a pretty good fit. I’m sure that, even when our idiot president has been expelled from office, I’ll find some other situation to be outraged by and respond to in music. Or maybe I’ll just want to sing cheesy love songs. We’ll just have to see!

Check out “They Warned Us” below and for more information on Matt Dobkin, visit his website, follow him on Instagram or give his page a like on Facebook.