Sisters Put a Spotlight on the District With 'Jazz'

Friday, April 24, 2009

Last night's premiere of "Jazz in the Diamond District" was more than five years coming for local sisters Lindsey Christian and Erica Chamblee.

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts alumni started working on a movie about life in the Washington they knew -- one filled with music, culture and clubs -- in early 2004.

Chamblee, 28, says the basic plot of a girl who loses her mother and attempts to find her voice through go-go and hip-hop music had been rolling around in her head for years. When she mentioned it to her sister, they decided to become filmmakers.

Christian, 26, fleshed out the script, directed the film and lent her singing voice to the main character. Chamblee, a local actress, took on the part of a studious, naive younger sister.

"Jazz in the Diamond" appeared in last year's DC Film Fest and the Urban World Film festival in New York but didn't get picked up for a major release. So Christian and Chamblee approached theaters themselves. And through a Landmark Theatre program called "Truly Indie" that releases non-studio films to the big screen, they're about to see "Jazz" rolled out to five cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

The sisters hope their movie will show viewers a side of Washington they might not know. "We shot in all four quadrants of the city," Chamblee explains. "We wanted to show people stuff they don't normally see."

And Christian thinks the wait to get to the big screen may have made for perfect timing.

"There's such a focus on D.C. now, so that's really helping us," she says. "There this new heightened focus on art in D.C. and what D.C. is really like -- there's a lot of great buzz."

-- Ellen McCarthy

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