Tedra Wilson’s dedication to Baltimore club, the locally beloved and internationally respected dance music genre that grew out of the city’s black communities, inspired her first foray into documentary filmmaking. The rapper, singer, designer and producer best known as TT the Artist shares the result of this labor when she screens “Dark City: Beneath the Beat” at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture on Friday, June 28.
Titled “Behind the Lens,” the screening is one of two local events (the other being a sold-out presentation at the Parkway Theatre two days before) at which locals can experience the one-hour film. While she said she hopes to officially premiere her debut doc at a major film festival, TT the Artist explained in a Monday morning phone interview with The Baltimore Sun that she wanted to make sure local audiences, including the artists who helped her, could see it first.
“This project, to me, personally, has been one big collaboration with the creative community of Baltimore,” she said. “As I was working on the credits, [I realized that] I’ve worked with over 100 people on this project. Everybody involved with this piece is either an artist living or working here or a native of Baltimore.”
That extensive list includes the four personalities most prominently featured in “Dark City”: DJ Mighty Mark, one of TT the Artist’s earliest collaborators; dancer Terry “TSU Terry” Wedington, whose TSU Dance Crew specializes in the fast footwork central to Baltimore club’s affiliated dances; Uneek, who founded Bmore Than Dance to teach dance workshops and mentor children; and the filmmaker herself. be at At Friday’s event, Bmore Than Dance will host an opening mixer, while a closing reception features Mighty Mark’s music and performances from TT the Artist and TSU.
But TT the Artist noted that the film ultimately focuses more on the communities in which it takes place. The trailer from last year (below) teases the documentary’s unconventional, immersive style and includes sequences, like a dance routine in which a police officer shoots a black man, that evoke the racial and social justice topics that “Dark City” also tackles.
“We highlight the social climate of Baltimore, but it’s told through the music — the [movie’s original] music becomes the narrator,” she said. “You get snippets of these stories from myself, Mark, Uneek and Terry, but then we go in and out of these sequences that touch on events that happened in Baltimore, like the Freddie Gray [unrest].”
She then referenced a scene, showcased in the trailer, in which dancers, all clad in red and joined by rapper DDm, dance along the Inner Harbor.
“It’s a protest scene, in a sense, where we flash mob-style, take over the Inner Harbor and reclaim space,” she said.
TT the Artist said that she wants “Dark City,” at the screening event and beyond, to inspire dialogue about Baltimore club and how people who experience it through the film can go forward.
“We’re basically bringing the culture to the people,” she said. “I think a lot of people will be able to have open dialogue about what Baltimore needs, and what’s next.”
Purchase tickets for “Behind the Lens: Dark City Beneath the Beat” via lewismuseum.org.