‘A Thousand and One’ Director A.V. Rockwell on Her Heartbreaking New Film
I spoke to Rockwell—who grew up in Queens, attended high school in Brooklyn, and went to film school at NYU—about where her movie A Thousand and One came from.
Vogue: I was lucky enough to see A Thousand and One at Sundance, where it won the grand jury prize. Can you tell me what the experience of winning that award was like?
A.V. Rockwell: Oh, man. Sundance was a whirlwind. It’s just nuts, and it can be a turning point for any filmmaker. But obviously winning the grand jury prize was insane. The most special part was hearing what the jury had to say—Jeremy O. Harris spoke on behalf of all of them. His words were so pure and honest and heartfelt that you could really tell that this movie touched him on a deep, emotional level. I made the movie for people like him. I wanted people to be able to see themselves in these characters—so that was the real success.
I know you grew up in Queens and went to high school in Brooklyn. Did you draw on your own New York childhood to tell this story?
I always knew that I wanted to tell a coming-of-age story about my experience in New York and saying farewell to that time—just seeing the city change dramatically, seeing firsthand how gentrification was impacting communities of color and Black communities specifically, which felt targeted, like we were being erased from the city altogether. Knowing what was at stake, especially for a neighborhood like Harlem—which means something not only to New Yorkers but to Black identity in general, our heritage and our culture, and American history—to see it washed away was devastating.
People often talk about the benefits of gentrification, but when you think about people who are the most vulnerable, like my characters, and you see them trying to gain a sense of home, gain a sense of stability and rebuild the bond of a family—and to see them get knocked down by a new thing that’s thrown at our community—this is the human price of gentrification.
A.V. Rockwell, who grew up in Queens, attended high school in Brooklyn, and went to film school at NYU, spoke to Vogue about her movie A Thousand and One. Vogue asked what the experience of winning the grand jury prize at Sundance was like. Rockwell said it was a whirlwind and that the most special part was hearing what the jury had to say. She made the movie for people like them, so that they could see themselves in the characters.
Rockwell then discussed how she drew on her own New York childhood to tell the story. She wanted to tell a coming-of-age story about her experience in New York and the impact of gentrification on communities of color and Black communities specifically. She wanted to show the human price of gentrification and how it can knock down people who are the most vulnerable.
The name A.V. Rockwell is becoming more and more well known to the public as her debut film “A Thousand and One” moves further into its release. This cutting-edge drama is taking the film industry by storm, featuring an important story and some remarkable performances from its cast of stars. At the helm of this powerful work is A.V. Rockwell, a talented and driven director whose dedication to her craft can be seen in her first feature-length film.
Rockwell began her career in filmmaking six years ago, when she attended the prestigious New York Film Academy. After completing her studies, Rockwell moved on to directing short films, winning a number of awards and gathering great critical acclaim. With her growing success in the industry, Rockwell eventually decided it was time for her to take the leap into feature length films.
“A Thousand and One” follows the powerful journeys of four different characters – a popular teenage girl, a middle-aged immigrant, a high school student, and a hermit – as they are connected together by a common, heartbreaking event. Rockwell built their stories and struggles off of her own personal experiences, sharing themes of family, identity and redemption in a powerful and passionate way.
Rockwell believes that this film is a testament to her ability as a young, female director. She has always been passionate about telling stories and creating powerful characters. “A Thousand and One” showcased this passion and dedication, and was made even better with her unique perspective and sharp details. The film is a powerful analysis of humanity’s struggles and the beauty of the human spirit.
“A Thousand and One” is an incredible debut for Rockwell, and has already garnered tons of praise from both audiences and critics alike. Rockwell hopes that her work will inspire more filmmakers, especially female directors, to share their own stories on the big screen. With her talent and ambition, that goal is certainly achievable.