After having been shown at The Tribeca Film Festival, and now in anticipation of the movies-on-demand and Videos on Demand (VOD) release of John Forte's documentary The Russian Winter, we had the chance to catch up with the Brooklyn artist. Based on Forte's concert tour, the film follows the singer-songwriter from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and other stops along the way. As of late Forte has just penned the theme song Brooklyn: Something To Lean On for the Brooklyn Nets. Enjoy!
YRB: Why did you feel the need to do this documentary?
John: Being that far away from home for the first time for such an extended period of time, I felt that to not document it would be disgraceful. We had no idea what to expect once we hit the ground, but I did know that it would be best to have it documented versus wishing we had done it once it was over.
YRB: Was your experience in Russia coupled with your prior situation cathartic for you?
John: Absolutely. My past experience and now being home is only part of it. I would like to think that with what I am doing now is also contributing towards the legacy of what I've always wanted and that is to produce qualitative art.
YRB: Do you feel your mission is complete?
John: Not yet. There is still so much more to do.
Darius: You titled the documentary The Russian Winter, and although it was filmed in Russia during the winter, is there some double meaning to the title?
John: Symbolically yes. I mean it was done in Russia and yes it was winter. I think that when they're combined you get this powerful imagery. On one hand its made people examine their previous notions of Russia and what it might be like because of what they've read in books or what they've seen in films and then on the other hand we all have this association with winter as being the most grueling of the seasons. Although the title is very simple, it definitely activates some sort of thought that would have you know this is not going to be just a walk in the park. I have the privilege and the honor to say that I endured them and I came home and put it on the screen to share it with people.
YRB: Is there a time during the nine week filming process that stands out in your mind?
John: We had the opportunity to visit children's hospitals and orphanages along the way and we donated all our proceeds from our live shows to these charities and hospitals. The most memorable account to me was visiting an orphanage in St. Petersburg where not only did we perform for the kids but they performed for us and that was a real bonding experience. Most of these kids had very little if any understanding of the English language yet they are so in tuned to the Western culture and surprisingly they are highly influenced by Hip Hop and R&B Soul. They did these little dance routines and I was just blown away by bearing witness to how expansive this culture that began in the Bronx just decades ago has spread around the world.
YRB: What would be your take on the state of Hip Hop at this time?
John: It is in a very troubled state and the music industry has changed tremendously. I applaud an artist like Mos Def that has been able to survive. He (Mos Def) not only has been able to hang in there, but change his business model so that he’s not just being known as rapper, and I think that is really important.