Pittsburgh filmmaker and visual artist Chris Ivey is pretty candid when talking about his friend Brian Broome, the local author who has made waves with his award-winning memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods. Ivey describes, how over the years, he would see Broome publicly struggling with substance abuse, something the now-sober author discusses openly in his writing about him and in interviews, including with Pittsburgh City Paper.
Introducing Brian Broome, Ivey’s latest documentary, promises to be just as candid, as the title subject sits with other prominent Black artists and writers who have come up around the same time in Pittsburgh. “You have all these incredible artists, iconic artists, who are all friends here in Pittsburgh,” says Ivey during a phone interview with CityPaper. He lists off others who appear in the film along with Broome, including fellow author Deesha Philyaw, celebrated artist Vanessa German, and nationally known writer Damon Young.
Per a description, the film — premiering Sat., May 31 at the Harris Theater —promises to confront “topics of identity and success while speaking about the realities of being a Black writer” living in the Rust Belt today. And those discussing these topics do not mince their words.
“I think that’s what’s incredible about everybody who is in the film… they’re all no bullshit,” says Ivey. “They all say how they feel, you know, they do not hold back. They’re not very polite, you know, for the sake of whiteness, I would say.”
After the premiere, Ivey says the film will be made available through Vimeo and on-demand once some “tweaks” are made.
Introducing Brian Broome adds to Ivey’s mission of using his skills to highlight these realities in works like East of Libertya 2006 documentary about gentrification in a then predominantly Black Pittsburgh neighborhood.
Ivey says the new documentary came from a project about Broome he was doing with Cut, a company that creates online videos and other web content. He shot over two days in May 2021, and from there, he edited it down to a feature-length 102 minutes.
The film illustrates the need for honest conversations around disparities in the quality of life between white and Black populations in Pittsburgh. Ivey says that the film’s subjects “succeeded in spite of Pittsburgh,” a city that has become well documented for discriminating against Black residents in the arts and beyond.
“You see them go through questions like, ‘Where do we fit into Pittsburgh?’, you know, ‘How can we get support?’” says Ivey. “Or, ‘Do they even want us to stay here?’”
Ivey adds that while he thinks the city has gotten better at supporting Black artists, it’s “too late,” as many have already started looking elsewhere for opportunities. Ivey says most of his own work takes him outside of Pittsburgh.
Ivey sees the film as addressing heavy issues while also capturing a rare moment with some of the city’s most talented artistic voices, as well as being a testament to the power of one small community.
“I feel like they were all the outsiders,” says Ivey. “And they all pretty much had to support each other… It’s just incredible to see, like, yes, this is how you do it. And they stay tight-knit.”
Introducing Brian Broome. 8 p.m. Sat., May 21. Harris Theater. 809 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $15. trustarts.org