On March 22nd David Kirkman will premiere his debut feature film Underneath Children of the Sun at St. Louis’ Grandel Theater. The evening is expected to be an enchanting red carpet-experience for all in attendance. Actors and actresses will mix and mingle. Models will don wardrobes from the film, while Concert Black and the Sound Orchestra perform excerpts from the film’s score to carry the evening towards Kirkman’s Afrofuturistic vision.

The night has been planned for months and carefully crafted to bring a movie premiere the likes of which St. Louis has never seen. The event will be an evening to celebrate the three-year undertaking of Underneath: Children of the Sun and a precursor to what is in store for filmmaker David Kirkman and our region.

DELUX was able to catch up with David on the eve of the Oscars 96th Academy Awards program while making his preparations to watch the film industry’s biggest night. We briefly touched on the more diverse Oscars, Jeffrey Wright, and hometown hero Sterling K. Brown before discussing his filmmaking journey.

Filmmaker David Kirkman

Photo of St. Louis filmmaker David Kirkman

David’s intention for most of his young adult life was to be a musician. He plays multiple instruments including the cello and piano. While on a trip to Kansas City, he happened to watch Christopher Nolan’s Inception and was blown away by it. As a junior in high school, he admitted to not fully understanding what was happening in the movie so he was drawn to watch the behind-the-scenes DVD to learn more. He tells us, “I saw all these incredible people come together to try and make this one coherent vision and that was incredible to me.”

He would go on to watch behind-the-scenes footage of many other films, even ones not thought of as being “artistically sound”, like Transformers 2, but David ate up the content and described this experience and a later one, as early film school for him. Ultimately, a shift occurred in David’s artistic expression. He felt he could have more room to create using the larger palette that film allowed, to provide a more emotional impact to his audience. Kirkman explained that “Media is the most powerful tool [we have] to shape minds, mold cultures, and plant seeds, and I felt like film was the next step up from music,” with his mind being set on making films, he would soon go to work.

David’s first film was shot while in his Senior year in high school at Parkway North. Laughingly, calling it his worst film, he still has copies of it around. Shot from a Sony DSLR his parents purchased after the sale of a ‘99 Pontiac Bonneville, he not only created the movie but even packaged it for distribution to family and friends using a DVD duplicator and DVD cases.

After high school, David would matriculate to Webster University to continue his studies. He recalls riding the bus from Maryland Heights to Webster University and conversations he would have with the driver who also loved movies. There was a contrast between the formal education from his instructors and his interaction with the bus driver. From hearing about the impact of films such as Birth of a Nation to being introduced to films like Mo Better Blues, Juice, and Boyz in the Hood from the Driver. David says the driver would hand out movies and music almost like actual assignments which he was careful to return once viewed. He credits this experience as another instance of film school and very formative, providing him an education within an education.

Fast forward to the present and Kirkman is becoming a trailblazer in the genre of Afrofuturism. His previous projects Static Shock and Hardware are early representations of his talent for storytelling, cinematography, and directing. In Underneath, he even worked on the movie’s score allowing him to incorporate his still-present love for music.

One can only imagine how far Kirkman will ascend in his career, the former Ferguson resident and Webster grad is now an Artist in Residence at Washington University’s School of African American Studies and co-owns his own film company Woke Nation Studios, with more than a few projects in the works. Hardworking, ambitious, learned, and still down to earth he is taking his success in stride with a wide yet still determined eye toward an Afrofuturist future.

Underneath Children of the Sun movie poster

When a spacecraft crash lands on earth in Little Dixie, MO in 1857 it is discovered by two enslaved brothers of African descent. The encounter changes the course of their lives and the fates of two worlds, as a search for a powerful artifact from the crashed ship passes through the generations and its recovery becomes crucial to the survival of the alien people. Underneath: Children of the Sun is a time and dimension-bending epic that explores elements of the past and the future of a people wrestling with their existence.

For tickets to the World Premiere of Underneath Children of the Sun in St. Louis click here: Underneath World Premiere

DeWarren Smith