As some of you might know by some of my Instagram posts, I am a huge fan of DrinkChamps the weekly podcast hosted by Queens own N.O.R. E and Miami Hip Hop Pioneer Dj EFN.
Today, I have the pleasure to chop it up with DJ EFN about his award-winning documentary series Coming Home, where DJ EFN and his Crazy Hood crew travel to other countries seeking hip-hop and learning about other countries through the scope of hip-hop culture. Its fifth installment Coming Home: Colombia will be screened this Saturday, June 2, 2018, at the People Film’s Festival in Harlem. For tickets, click here.
WA: For those that don’t know about the Crazy Hood Film Academy, can you tell us when and how it was born?
EFN: Crazy Hood Film Academy is a branch of my company Crazy Hood Productions. It was born out of the need and want to do more visual stuff in-house. One of my artists, Garcia, had done some film classes and I decided to just put whatever he learned to use. We started by doing music videos for our artists, I did a DVD that went along with a mixtape release of mine in the early 2000’s and just creating exclusive video content to post on our Crazyhood.com site. Fast forward and now I’m directing and producing our own documentary films, as well as executive producing Drink Champs the tv show. Garcia has further branched out under his own production to direct videos for a lot of major artists.
WA: What inspired the Coming Home Series and why is important for you to do this?
EFN: Coming Home came out of a trip I decided to take to Cuba. I am Cuban-American and had never been to the island. For Cubans especially from my parents’ generation, it was and still is very taboo to visit Cuba. There’s a lot of emotion around everything that has happened with the revolution so growing up I was told no one could go to Cuba unless the Castro regime was over. I was told it was too dangerous and that people that go there are contributing to the communist regime by traveling there. Eventually, as I got older I started to shape my own thoughts about Cuba and I had a desire to see Cuba in the historic bubble it had been in. Seeing the island somewhat, although falling apart, how my parents and grandparents left it. So long story short I recruited Garcia and a couple other friends to go. While we were there I wanted to seek out and meet local hip-hop artists and see what the scene was like. Originally, we were just documenting the trip for ourselves, maybe to show friends and family but once we started showing the film the feedback we started getting was amazing. We got picked up by some film festivals, were asked to do press about it, and then Revolt tv licensed it as their first original content acquisition the year the network launched. Me being a fan of shows like Anthony Bourdain thought it would be dope if hip-hop could have a show like that, hence the Coming Home series was born.
WA: The first documentary began in Cuba, why? How are the countries chosen for the series?
EFN: Yup, Cuba and for all the reasons I laid out in my previous answer. So far we have gone to countries we have some kind of connection to through the people in my crew. After Cuba we went to Peru, which to be honest I really wanted to visit Machu Picchu, so the fact that one of our young homies Boris aka BeatsNdaHood is Peruvian. Then we went to Haiti which we took one of our boys who was Haitian-American and had never been to Haiti. Also being in Miami we are surrounded by Haitian culture and friends so it made a lot of sense to go. After Haiti, I picked Vietnam which was a place I had always wanted to go because my father fought in the war. In that film, I visit the main area my dad was based and fought battles in. Now in our fifth film, we go to Colombia which is for pretty much the same reasons as Haiti. We took our boy Paul aka @DrinkChampsSports who’s Colombian-American and also Colombians are a big part of the Miami cultural fabric.
WA: What made you pursue filmmaking and what is your favorite part of the process?
EFN: I never really had an inclination to do filmmaking but one thing I have always done is expand into areas that make sense within the world I already work in. If something feels natural and calls me I just do it. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work and I keep it moving! lol
WA: Let’s talk about the team, who is involved and tell us about their role in the creation of this series.
EFN: The first couple films Garcia directed and I was the producer and now I direct and produce the films. The main cast is made up of some of my best friends from my Crazy Hood crew along with other friends and associates that may come along for the ride. We’ve been lucky to have talented people around us who have helped produce and shape these films like our editor Carlos Gonzales of Illumeret Productions, our sound engineer Chip Williams of The Guild Productions, our art director Trek6, and our dedicated camera crew which varies between Garcia, Anthony Uribe, Carlos Gonzales, and Kosi Victor.
WA: Coming Home: Colombia is the fifth installment of the series and it will be screen in New York this Saturday at The People’s Film Festival, what can you tell our readers about this particular installment?
EFN: Like the previous films you see us go to a place we’ve never gone before and met artists for the first time. We rely on the common language of hip-hop to connect us and basically cut the red tape to get access to these people and their hoods. You also see us do something that is very gratifying which is able to not only create content but make memorable trips for our friends who like me in Cuba are able to connect with their roots!
WA: In your opinion, how will these series impact or had impacted the culture?
EFN: I think it shows us the power and reach of hip-hop and well it’s being interpreted in other countries. We might think folks in these countries need to learn from us or are behind or whatever but in fact, we are the ones that can learn from them. I think the US (when it comes to hip-hop but in many other things as well) needs to better understand our impact or lack of and if it is the latter, then why do we have less of an influence now?
WA: Which film has inspired you the most?
EFN: I honestly get something different from each film.
WA: Which particular filmmaker has influenced you the most?
EFN: Like I mentioned before Anthony Bourdain, he might be considered more the talent than the filmmaker but you know what I mean. It sucks cuz nowadays a lot of people and shows throw his name around as an influence or just to say their show is like his. I was inspired by his series years ago going back to his Travel channel days. The reason I feel what we do is more like his show is because he goes to countries as a chef and uses food culture as the common language to really dig into the country he is visiting and from that common language you get social commentary and a style of filmmaking that really tries to leave the viewer with a better understanding of the people, culture, and place. In Coming Home, I am going to these countries as a DJ and someone who has dedicated my life to hip hop culture and I use hip-hop as the common language to do the same as Bourdain.
WA: What’s next for the Coming Home Series and Crazy Hood Film Academy?
EFN: There’s a couple of ways the series can go. We are set to film the sixth installment soon but we are learning to produce a weekly episodic series at some point. And as far as CHFA as a whole who knows, we have lot’s of ideas in the can so stay tuned!
If you want to catch the trailers for previous episodes, click the links below:
For those in LA, the screening will take place June 14, 2018, 8:00 pm at the LA Film School.
NYC! Come through this Saturday and support the documentary at the People’s Film Festival in Harlem, I’ll be there.
If you haven’t watch DrinkChamps, I encourage you to. You can catch a new episode every Thursday at 10:00 pm on Revolt TV.