Hollywood Royal Couple Share Hard-Won Life’s Lessons on Love, Art and Activism

On Sunday, June 22, Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee, a documentary about the beloved artists-activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee by their grandson – director Muta’Ali – will have its world premiere at the American Black Film Festival.

At Film Life’s 18th Annual American Black Film Festival, the film—part tribute, part history lesson and part coming-of-age story—give viewers an intimate look into the remarkable lives of the couple many consider the all-time king and queen of Black Hollywood: Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.

Stunned by the death of his grandfather, Muta’Ali moves to New York to be able to spend more time with his grandmother and to get answers to some of his burning questions. The film, produced by Jevon “NJ” Frank, follows Muta’Ali as he delves into chapters of their lives that span the 20th and 21st centuries, posing probing questions to his grandmother as well as to celebrity friends, costars and fellow activists of the star couple in his search for his own life’s path. Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Hill Harper, Samuel Jackson, Spike Lee, Sonia Sanchez and Dr. Cornel West are among the notables who offer insights into and memories of the couple’s love, art and activism. Davis weighs in, too, speaking to his grandson through never-before-seen footage and memorabilia from the Davis-Dee family archives.
Along the way, Muta’Ali lays bare the rich history of Davis and Dee, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights struggle through their social activism, while maintaining illustrious careers in the arts and a full family life.

“To admire and speak highly of my grandparents is easy, but to apply their principles in my own life has proven less so. There is self-discovery in the vast space between what I look up to—their 56 year marriage, their socially conscious career choices, and their bravery in the struggle—and what I may be willing to practice,” said Muta’Ali.

Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee will be screened on Sunday, June 22 at 1:50 pm at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Theatre, 333 West 23 Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. (Take the A, C, E or 1 to 23rd Street.) Tickets are $12.00 and can be purchased by visiting www.abff.com. For more information on the film, visit http://rubydee.lifesessentialsdocs.com/.