Once again, Vimeo is glad to present the Vimeo Staff Pick Award to a short film featured in this year’s BlackStar Film Festival (August 4-8). In a time filled with continual Black grief, the appreciation of Black life is paramount. For its display of active love, in the form of three fathers who strive to better their communities in North Philadelphia, the winner of the 2nd annual Vimeo Staff Pick Award goes to Renee Osubu’s “Dear Philadelphia.”

Three fathers’ stories lead us through this complicated Pennsylvanian city. Osubu deftly weaves together anecdotes, vignettes, and portraits showing how interconnected the lives and livelihoods of its citizens are. The generational harm of drugs and prison has transformed into a generational act of healing. Community members who have hurt others or been hurt, are now the very people that are actively rebuilding what is broken.

The mission of these fathers and the purpose of “Dear Philadelphia” is to recognize the change forgiveness and purpose can bring. It can be caring for an animal, a person, or a congregation. Creating activities for youth to keep them off the street. Even the transformative of a haircut. These acts reshape perspectives and help communities find peace, heal, and ultimately, grow.

Alongside winning the award at BlackStar Film Festival, we reached out to filmmaker Renee Osubu to learn more about the process, and what made her tell this story.

On inspiration:

“I was heavily influenced by the conversations and experiences I had been having in Philly over the years. Philly is full soul, vibrance, joy. The juxtaposition of pain and trials Philly faces produces a strong sense of overcoming, and in a time when I was striving to better understand love and forgiveness, that was all the inspiration I needed.”

On challenges faced:

“The only challenge I really had was having to stop. It honestly brought us so much joy to be out each day filming.”

On her approach to finding vulnerability in her subjects:

“Most people in this film and those you don’t see, really gave a piece of themselves in sharing with us. What’s integral to me is listening without an agenda and being willing to share a piece of myself too. Nothing that was shared with me on camera ever had to go in the documentary, even if it felt like ‘the best footage.’ People’s dignity has to come first, and anyone who was willing to sit with me and share their story deserved that at the very least. Many people are willing to share their story, they often just aren’t asked.”

On the timeline:

“I decided on four weeks to shoot the documentary. I got chickenpox and that very quickly became just under 3 weeks. It’s hilarious when I look back. We definitely didn’t expect that, but you have to roll with it.”

What is your best piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers?

“BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! I had no directing experience and honestly, there are so many reasons I could have held to, as to why I shouldn’t have made this film. But I am so glad I did. It honestly changed a lot of my life. 

We constantly overthink and doubt ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, consideration and planning is important. However, if all that planning still leads to no work, you probably need to change your plan. Believe in yourself, make something you’re passionate about and do it with people who are passionate too.”

What’s next? Any upcoming projects? 

“Working on my next project, and taking the time to really appreciate where God has taken ‘Dear Philadelphia,’ as it’s way beyond what I was hoping for.”

Check out more Staff Pick Award winners