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'Paris Blues in Harlem'

Updated on November 29, 2018
'Paris Blues In Harlem' central characters are the film's writer & director, Nadhege Ptah, and veteran actor, Charles Weldon as grandfather & grand-daughter in a memorable performance.
'Paris Blues In Harlem' central characters are the film's writer & director, Nadhege Ptah, and veteran actor, Charles Weldon as grandfather & grand-daughter in a memorable performance.

Nadhege Ptah is a New York based actress, writer and director who has been screening her wonderful short film about love, trust, heritage and gentrification surrounding a young woman, Paris, who is desperate in her quest to pressure her grandfather into selling his insolvent night club.

The 'Paris Blues In Harlem' story synopsis reads:

Paris has just a few hours to convince her rigid elder to accept a real estate agent’s briefcase with mounds of cash in exchange for his nightclub. But, as time runs out, he struggles to let go. With only a few seconds left, Paris is faced with a choice between legacy and money.

What unfolds next between the grandfather and his beloved grand-daughter, both stern in their beliefs about whether to sell this landmark establishment or keep it in the face of foreclosure, is very authentically written and portrayed by Charles Weldon and story creator/director, Nadhege Ptah.

Will the patriarch of this establishment sell or will he stand his ground, and how this dilemma affects their relationship and those who are loyal patrons of Paris Blues Nightclub, is what will endear you to this gem of a story.

Paris Blues night club was established in 1969 by 81 year old Samuel Hargress, Jr. and is located at 2021 Adam Clayton Powell Junior Blvd, between 121st Street and 7th Avenue, in New York.

It is Harlem's oldest and only remaining live Jazz/Blues "dives" and is listed as one of USA Today's "10 Best Jazz & Blues Clubs" in New York.

I recently caught up with Nadhege Ptah about this short film that is a great story for the holidays set against the backdrop of cultural disadvantages that lead to misunderstandings and misgivings.


"Newcomers say gentrification is about wealth, not race. But that’s a distinction without a difference."

-- Michael Henry Adams, New York Times, MAY 27, 2016

Q&A with Nadhege Ptah About Her Film

Q) 'Paris Blues In Harlem' is the short film that tells the story of Sam "Pop Pop" Johnson a.k.a., Alabama Sam, who owns a Blues & Jazz Lounge in Harlem, New York, with it's inception going back to 1969 and now, in 2018, a much older Alabama Sam is facing foreclosure on his establishment. His grand-daughter, Paris, has decided to work with a buyer who wants the property by getting him to sign and take a cash settlement, but he refuses because Paris Blues is a neighborhood landmark.

What attracted you to this story as a film maker, and how did you first come to know of it?

A) When I was fundraising for my first short film DoDo TiTi I went to the various local businesses in my community in Harlem. Paris Blues was one of them since I performed a monologue there a few years ago for a fundraising event. He supported and I would stop by to give him the updates. A friendship was developing and I began to learn the rich history that existed with Paris Blues and the owner Samuel Hargress. It sparked my interest to extend the legacy through film so it is known globally. We know of Lenox Lounge, but Paris Blues is an unsung Jazz/Blues club known by tourists, supported political fundraising campaigns, serves free food daily, a safe haven spot, holds community events like free donated coats drive, books, toys for children, Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless, etc. It goes beyond music, entertainment and drinks.

Q) There is a line in the film referring to the very forward buyer, an African American woman, who is offering the cash settlement, as "Gentrifiers".

I know the last time I was in Harlem, I was surprised to see stores like H&M and other retail stores, right on 125th Street where Mom & Pop establishments were an integral part of the flavor of Harlem. How much of this story is about gentrification do you believe?

A) The root of the story are economics and differences in values gentrification is just the cancer that wakes people up to a long standing issue that plagues disadvantaged communities.

Q) Paris Blues (Jazz) club actually opened in 1969? There was a popular film done in 1961 that starred Sydney Poitier and Paul Newman called 'Paris Blues'. Did the film have any influence on the name for the club to your knowledge, and how much of this short film is what really went on or artistic license would you say?

A) Samuel Hargress, Jr., the owner of Paris Blues, was station in France while in the military and he fell in love with the country as well as the film Paris Blues. The naming of the place was inspired by those experiences.

Q) I love the moment Paris decides to not allow her "Pop-Pop" to go on with this offer after he was pressured to sign. There was a line where reveals to her about the 2nd mortgage on the place. Tell us about that moment in the story?

A) That moment was to reveal the unknown sacrifices the patriarch or matriarch experienced to sustain the family. It's often not communicated to externally appear all is together. As a result, the inability or embarrassment to communicate the struggles and sacrifices plants the dysfunctional seeds which manifests from feelings of abandonment, unloved or unappreciated from the younger generation in the family. Omitting that revelation from the rock of the family creates misunderstanding and the illusion all is well.

Q) You have some notable personalities involved in this production, who were some of the personalities you enlisted to be involved with this, and what would you say their overall desire to participate was?

A) Yes, I have Tonya Pinkins (Tony award winner, All My Children, Walking Dead, Scandal), Charles Weldon (Stir Crazy, Sanford and Son, Artist Director of the Negro Ensemble), Arthur French (Car Wash, Broadway legend) and Doctor Bob Lee (WBLS Radio Personality). They received the script and the story enticed them to participate in this ultra low budget production. I am eternally grateful for the notable personalities and the entire team involved.

Q) How long did it take you to shoot this short and did you have to spend your Tax Return monies, or how did you finance the film?

A) LMAO! It took two days to shoot to stay within budget. A very tight schedule to squeeze everything in. I spent resources that were sponsored, borrowed and fundraised.

Q) Since you finished the film, you have put it out on the film festival circuit. I know that you screened it at the Roxbury Film Festival in Massachusetts. How has the film been received so far?

A) Yes. We completed 8 festivals and will have an upcoming screening in December, which will be 9 festivals for 2018, and more in 2019. We have been nominated several times and won an award. It has been well received because it resonates with audiences because it's a universal story about generational differences and the struggles to build and sustain generational wealth legacy. It's universal.

Q) What would you like for people to get when they watch this film and what's in store for it in 2019, more festivals, or you looking to get a production budget to do a full length theatrical release?

A) I want people to understand the challenges to build generational wealth because of differences in values among generations, but in particular how disadvantaged communities tend to struggle because resources, access and a system that is design to economically keep them disempowered. The next goal is a documentary and developing a TV series.

Q) Now, you wrote the script and directed this film? What has been the most rewarding aspect of this whole experience for you?

A) The most rewarding is to experience the journey of seeing it come to fruition and the audience engagement.

Q) Finally, where can our readers see and support this film, and where can they find you on social media?

A) The film is currently on the table for distribution so the other option is film festivals, which are communicated through the Paris Blues In Harlem social media assets. The readers can find us through these social media handles and to please follow us, share to assisit in building the audience and following.

Facebook
Paris Blues In Harlem Film

Twitter
Username: parisbluesfilm

Instagram
Username: parisbluesinharlemfilm


Thank you for making this film Nadhege, and for sending a strong message with it. We look forward to seeing it screened all over the world and much continued success to you with a blossoming career as a filmmaker.


Meet the Cast of 'Paris Blues In Harlem'

Nadhege Pitah
Nadhege Pitah

NADHEGE PTAH is an actor/writer/producer/dancer/director of film, stage, and theater. She began her artistic journey dancing in her mother’s womb and made good on that promise winning awards for choreography and dance with various modern dance ensembles and garnering acknowledgment from The United Nations for her work. She has starred in several leading and supporting roles and has worn many hats for various productions. Huffington Post, Backstage, Harlem Times and Off-Off Broadway Review have acknowledged Ptah with rave reviews for her performances and writing skills. In 2017, she was selected to participate in the CBS diversity actor’s workshop. Ptah is the founder and CEO of the Harlem-based production company MAAT Films. Her work attempts to shed light on honest universal stories while igniting and supporting change globally. The award-winning short film Harlem Love, she starred, produced, guided and supervised the direction in post-production. It premiered privately in February 2017 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance with Sonia Sanchez whose voice and poem are featured in the film. Her past projects include the award-winning short film DoDo TiTi as producer, writer, and actress, guided and supervised the direction in post-production. It continues to screen at various festivals, received two nominations for best actress and cinematography. She directed She Loves’ music video currently in post-production, co-writing a pilot for a South African-American TV drama, and wrote and directed the short film Paris Blues in Harlem starring Tony award-winning actress, Scandal, Gotham, Tonya Pinkins and the artistic director of the Negro Ensemble, Stir Crazy, Sanford And Son, Charles Weldon which completed principal photography in November 2017. Ptah is a member of SAG-AFTRA, AEA, Black Documentary Collective, Frank Silvera Writers Workshop, and NYWFT.

Tonya Pinkins
Tonya Pinkins

TONYA PINKINS is an American television, film and theater actress and author known for her portrayal of Livia Frye on the soap opera All My Children and for her roles on Broadway. Tonya Pinkins acended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she studied theater, music and dance. Leaving school, she moved to New York aeer landing a role in Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along", then went on to appear in "An Ounce Of Preven:on", "Just Say No", "Caucasian Chalk Circle" and "Licle Shop of Horrors" on the New York stage. Pinkins' portrayal of Sweet Anita in the Broadway musical "Jelly's Last Jam" earned her a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award and the Clarence Derwent Award. In the summer of 1994, during a hiatus from All My Children (1970), she starred as Mistress Ford in the New York Shakespeare Fes:val's produc:on of "The Merry Wives of Windsor".

Charles Weldon
Charles Weldon

CHARLES WELDON a veteran actor of stage, film, and television. He is the Artistic Director of the Negro Ensemble Co. Inc. Charles starred in more than forty plays including "The River Niger" "A Soldiers Play", etc. In films, he was in "Stir Crazy" "Roots the Next Generation”, “Fast Walking", 'The Wishing Tree", etc. On television, he was on "Hill Street Blues", Sanford and Son, NBC ‘s Hill Street Blue, etc. Charles started his career as lead singer of the Paradon with the number one song "Diamonds and Pearls" and from there he moved on to musical theatre, starring with the original San Francisco company of "Hair”. He came to New York with the Broadway musical "Big :me Buck White" starring Mohammed Ali.

Mr. Weldon would like everyone to know he is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the Negro Ensemble Co. Inc.

Michelle Baldwin
Michelle Baldwin

MICHELE BALDWIN is an American, multi-platinum award winning creative artist: Actor, Producer, Director, Writer and an overall Inspirer. Producing for the past nine years, Michele has earned considerable IMDB credits, helping to bring a varying array of independent films, commercials and theater projects to the forefront. Her projects have been in several popular film festivals, one having been a NAACP Image Award request.

As CEO of Michele Baldwin Enterprises, she works with many other collaborators and partners, Eddie Harris of EBH Productions, recently Corwin Moore, former SNL Writer on an upcoming new series, preliminary writer on a mini-series in negotiations and recently joining the Youth Development Organization, Sounds of Tomorrow, in partnership with three :me Grammy Award winner, Jerry Wonda.

Dr. Bob Lee
Dr. Bob Lee

Dr. BOB LEE is one of New York's best known radio personalities and is also the Community Affairs Director for WBLS. As part of his community-based work, Lee has developed strong ties to many local and national politicians and public figures, including President Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mayor David Dinkins, and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión. Lee also currently hosts the weekly live television program "Open," which broadcasts on BronxNet, a cable television station serving the Bronx and upper Manhattan. The program features news and topics affecting the Bronx community and also treats viewers to new and established musical guests.

Lee also appears frequently in the Harlem community as the host of live music and other events, such as Harlem Summer Stage and classic soul programs at the Apollo Theater featuring Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. In addition, his strong ties to the community are reflected in his many charitable endeavors. Among other activities, Lee is a founder and board member of the Make The Grade Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provides mentoring and aid to school children. Lee also helps college students interested in radio careers by serving as a mentor for "Table for Two," a weekly music program which broadcasts from WLIU 88.1 FM radio in Brooklyn and which is staffed by interns from Long Island University.

The Making of 'Paris Blues' Photo Gallery

Nadhege Ptah wrote, directed and plays the central character, Paris, who carries the namesake of the insolvent club so close to her grandfather's heart.
Nadhege Ptah wrote, directed and plays the central character, Paris, who carries the namesake of the insolvent club so close to her grandfather's heart.
Veteran actors, Charles Weldon and Tonya Pinkins bring joy and pain in their portrayals of a family legacy and business facing ruin.
Veteran actors, Charles Weldon and Tonya Pinkins bring joy and pain in their portrayals of a family legacy and business facing ruin.

I want people to understand the challenges to build generational wealth because of differences in values among generations, but in particular how disadvantaged communities tend to struggle because resources, access and a system that is designed to economically keep them disempowered."

— Nadhege Ptah
Paris Blues Jazz & Blues Nightclub was started in 1969 by Samuel Hargress, Jr
Paris Blues Jazz & Blues Nightclub was started in 1969 by Samuel Hargress, Jr
Samuel Hargress, Jr.
Samuel Hargress, Jr.

Home to Paris Blues Jazz & Blues Nightclub.

The building and Blues & Jazz club is pretty much preserved as the first day Samuel Hargress purchased it for $35,000.00 in 1969
The building and Blues & Jazz club is pretty much preserved as the first day Samuel Hargress purchased it for $35,000.00 in 1969

'Paris Blues' has been screened in 2018 at various Film Festivals such as the Roxbury International Film Festival to Rave Reviews

Awards & Nominations for 'Paris Blues in Harlem' at Film Festivals Thus Far in 2018

Nadhege Ptah - Best Female Director (Nominated)
Nadhege Ptah - Best Female Director (Nominated)
'Paris Blues in Harlem' Winner of the Tubman Award
'Paris Blues in Harlem' Winner of the Tubman Award
'Paris Blues in Harlem' for Best Short Film(Nominated)
'Paris Blues in Harlem' for Best Short Film(Nominated)

'Paris Blues In Harlem' Trailer

WBLS & New York Media Personality, Bob Lee, interviews Nadhege and cast members of 'Paris Blues'

Nadhege on making this film.

The most rewarding is to experience the journey of seeing it come to fruition and the audience engagement."

— Nadhege Ptah

Comments

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    • Robsthe1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Walker 

      2 weeks ago from Atlanta, GA.

      Indeed Pam, the cast is chock full of talent, thanks to film's writer, director and star, Nadhege Ptha!

      Thank you as always for your comments and Happy Holidays! ;-)

    • profile image

      Karin Hopkins 

      3 weeks ago

      Enjoyed this interview...Made me want to visit the club...Envisioned soaking in the history and ambience while tapping my foot to the beat of live jazz

    • profile image

      Angelo Stokes 

      3 weeks ago

      Great job Rob! Please continue to share these hidden gems with us the people .

    • Pam Morris profile image

      Pam Morris 

      3 weeks ago from Atlanta Georgia

      Rob, thank you for sharing this article. I am not familiar with The 'Paris Blues In Harlem film at all. but you did an excellent job with the details. I enjoy watching the actress Tonya Pinkins, she's a talented young lady that I've seen performs in different roles. Also, Charles Weldon is an actor I enjoyed as well. I can detect from reading Paris Blues nightclub has a history of talent people with popular personalities that have performed throughout the history.

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