Denis A. Charles:
An Interrupted Conversation
Directed by Veronique N. Doumbe

Review by Christina Lashley

True artists that are touched by divine Light, come into our world to share with us a piece of their illumination. Their world is something that only they can see but through their artistry, these individuals give us a glimpse of a mysterious domain through their presence and the transference of themselves into pure matter. Whatever the medium, tangible or etheric, it can be life changing, inspiring or wonderfully entertaining.
Veronique N. Doumbe's debut documentary about the life of American jazz musician, Denis A. Charles, is a moving portrayal of one of these pure spirits. Veronique, a French/Camaroon filmmaker, first met Denis Charles in 1982. Nature and destiny draw two souls together. Both immigrants and new parents, it was easy to find things in common and a friendship was quickly formed. It seems that Charles had that effect on many people and this is revealed through the interviews captured by Veronique with colleagues and jazz musicians who played with Denis and held him in high regard. .Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Frank Lowe, Evelyn Blakey and others recall their experiences with Denis describing his talent and turmoils.
These artists who "walk in the light" float through what others may describe as the "bad" times like being homeless as all a part of the flow. Charles, who had completely healed from being a long-time drug user, died at 64 years of age in 1998 in his sleep from a heart attack. He had just returned from a European tour.
Born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands in 1933, Denis and his two brothers were left on a plane bound for Florida by their father when he was twelve years old Feeling frightened and deserted, the boys fears only escalated when they arrived at the airport in Florida and were confronted with racial segregation for the first time in their lives. That alone would have made the "average" kid lose their mind. Veronique does a beautiful job visually describing with historical footage that era while Denis recounts his childhood fee1ings; of his first experience in America.
Later met by their mother after a long train ride to New York City, Denis and his
brothers learned to survive in Harlem and used music as their escape and the way to connect to that "other" world Taking up the drums, Denis found a way to communicate to the heartbeat of Mother Earth. One can see through Veronique's film that "connection" was the driving force of his life. His talent and love for the music he easily shared with others. Whether he was making money or not, the music sustained him. He didn't expect people to love him. Even if they rejected him, he loved them anyway because he was on that vibe, that vibration that flows thro everything.
Denis A Charles: An Interrupted Conversation premiered at a film festival in New Zealand and won the Best Documentary Award at the International Black Film Festival in Berlin. It was first shown in the US at the Pioneer Theatre in Denis' old neighborhood in New York City on January 22nd Denis' friends and fans were there. It sold out in 10 minutes and 100 people were turned away! Veronique received a well-deserved standing ovation. Five years of sweat and tears went into making this film. Veronique did all the camera work, interviews, editing and producing herself. She felt Denis "mirrored her own life in some way" and the film has not only empowered her but her own two daughters by watching their Mom struggle through this process. Especially important to her is that Denis' eleven year-old daughter Arkah can beam with pride at her father's legacy.
As a filmmaker and his friend, Veronique Doumbe offers an extraordinary gift of love to Denis A Charles, one that should inspire us all. I think Denis gave Veronique a glimpse of his mysterious path and she was wise and curious enough to take a piece of his vibration and make it her own.
Felicitation, Veronique!
To learn more about filmmaker Veronique N. Doumbe, go to www.ndolofilms.com>