For her debut feature, director, writer, and actress Radha Blank has made a splash with the semi-autobiographical The Forty-Year-Old Version. Shot on 35mm in black and white, Blank’s film is an ode to reinvention, hip hop, and New York City. In the film, Blank plays a fictionalized version of herself that is a struggling playwright who embarks on a rap career to get in touch with her creative side and exorcize her pent up emotions about her life.
We Live Entertainment was able to join a virtual roundtable with the African American Film Critics Association and Radha Blank, who answered questions about her new film and career. Enthusiastic and passionate, Blank is an artist to continue to watch out for. The Forty-Year-Old Version is now available to stream on Netflix.
- Blank states that choosing to shoot the film in black and white was a way of retrofitting The Forty-Year-Old Version to an era where shooting New York films in black and white was common (Films such as Manhattan and She’s Gotta Have It are mentioned). She also wanted to see Black people and others like herself reflected on the screen to portray them in a more vulnerable and artistic way.
- The film features rapper Styles P, who makes a cameo as a bus driver. Blank also admits that she changed the bus number to 914 as a salute to the part of New York Styles P hails from (Westchester County). The film also appearances from rappers such as Oswin Benjamin (Who plays D, Radha’s mentor and love interest), Young MA, and Sadat X.
- Blank mentions the importance of rappers choosing their names, thus creating a new identity for themselves. The moniker RhadaMUSprime is also Blank’s real-life stage name. RhadaMUSprime represents a “fearless part” of Blank that “doesn’t apologize” and has the strength to face the loss of her mother. Blank performs under the stage name in real life and hopes to continue to do so.
- When it comes to people who inspired the film, Blank cites Queen Latifah, (MC) Robert Townsend (director), and Toni Morrison (writer).
- When it comes to playing a fictionalized version of herself, Blank states that it was a way to honor her parents, Carol Blank, a visual artist, and Roger Blank, a jazz musician. Through her film, she hopes to honor their achievements and celebrate their impact on her life.
- Although the script is quite humorous, Blank did not set out to create a comedy. Blank mentions that authenticity was the most important aspect of her script. However, she does have experience in the New York City comedy scene.
- Blank decided to stick to her playwriting roots during certain pivotal relationship scenes such as when Radha and Archie (Peter Kim) talk to each other on a bench.
- Blank originally worked on the Netflix series The Get Down, of which during that time, she met Lena Waithe, who produced The Forty-Year-Old Version.