Smile4Kime is a timely, character-driven experimental documentary that explores the taboo topics of sexual violence, trauma, and mental health through the perspectives of women of color, in particular Black women. The film's story unfolds as a conversation between the two protagonists: Elena  and Kime, best friends who start out making a film together about Black women’s mental health and then later commune with each other through Elena’s spiritual practice after Kime’s untimely death. The narrative arc of the film foregoes traditional linear modes of storytelling and instead throws viewers into different spaces and times. In flashbacks, we hear Kime reflect on her experience with trauma, depression, and sexual assault. In the present, we see Elena invoking the memory of Kime. The movement between the past and present happens through animation and my altar, transporting the viewer into the past, to spiritual and dream worlds, and future moments that were never realized. Animation becomes the creative tool by which the altar — and Kime — come alive. Memory and interactions with Kime’s spirit allow the audience to bear witness to Elena’s grieving process as she works to come to terms with her own trauma, guilt and mental health challenges after Kime’s death. Animation and experimental footage also transport us to the past through the eyes of  Elena as she bears witness to Kime’s traumas of living with mental health issues and being brutalized by the system that refused to acknowledge her life as important. By the end of the film, we arrive at a new beginning that reflects an African diaspora ethos of life continuing after death; one where Kime’s and Elena’s friendship has transformed, and even in Kime's death, they continue to help each other grow stronger.

Production team