Vimeo series Stories in Place returns, this time backed by Mailchimp and centring on Black filmmakers

The collection of films sees the filmmakers capture the “behind-the-counter” stories of their favourite Black-owned small businesses, spanning from New Jersey to Nairobi to Peckham Rye.

23 February 2021


In April 2020, Vimeo launched a short film series titled Stories in Place, featuring original films by Staff Picked filmmakers focusing on small businesses navigating the pandemic. Since then, the series has garnered backing from Mailchimp – an apt partner whose primary customer is small business owners – and today sees the launch of season two. The collection of seven films this time centres entirely on Black filmmakers, whose films tell the “behind-the-counter” stories of their favourite Black-owned small businesses, and stretch from a vegan restaurant in Peckham Rye to a boutique in Nairobi via a sneaker consignment shop in Newark, New Jersey.

The filmmakers include Cydney Tucker, Raishad M. Hardnett, Aidan M. Un, Amandla Baraka, and Curtis Essel, whose film blends archival and 16mm footage with one-to-one interviews, depicting the Peckham restaurant Zionly Manna. “It fills me with so much humility to tell Jahson’s [the restaurateur’s] story,” Essel says, “not only because of the profound impact he had on my life, but also because he conveys a message of ’self-reliance’ that I want to amplify to the wider community.”

Ng'endo Mukii’s film is about Njeri Mereka, a smooth-talking, hymn-singing, 67-year-old grandmother who runs Kanyoko Boutique in Nairobi, Kenya, a business she unintentionally started from the trunk of her 1990 Toyota Corolla. “I wanted to create beautiful portraits of Njeri and the tailors she has collaborated with over the years, and use standard interview techniques mixed with animation,” describes Mukii. “My goal was to celebrate the beautiful patterned imagery that has become emblematic of Kanyoko Boutique in order to emulate Njeri’s history.”

Travis Wood’s film is a mixed media piece following the story of multiracial artist Lori Greene, owner of the mosaic studio and community art space Mosaic On A Stick in St. Paul, Minnesota. As such, the filmic techniques aim to mirror the subject, Wood explains. “One of the things I love about mosaics is how they are made from different types of broken and fragmented materials. When approaching this piece, I almost wanted to create a video mosaic by using lots of different video formats and styles mixed together.”

Meanwhile Troy Browne’s film about Mitchell’s the Bowl, a grocery store in Nottingham specialising in West Indian food, spotlights a family business about to be passed down a generation. In his film, Browne says he hopes people find “a little escapism to a small place that would go unnoticed otherwise and a celebration to other small businesses like this that have such a stake in their local communities”.

Curator of the series, Ina Pira, says Stories in Place is essentially about connectivity and community. “When we were sourcing the filmmakers, it was important to us that they had a direct relationship to the stories that they were telling,” she tells us. “Their unique personal connections and diverse filmmaking styles directly contributed to the variety of perspectives and approaches you see in the series. We didn’t want to make any broad statements about the Black experience with this grant, but we wanted authentic, loving glimpses into the inner workings of these special people and places. Working with filmmakers that could capture what is so special about each individual business was key.”

See the full collection on the dedicated Stories in Place platform on Vimeo.

GalleryVimeo and Mailchimp: Stories in Place (copyright © Vimeo and the individual filmmakers)


Curtis Essel: Zionly Manna


Ng'endo Mukii: Kanyoko Boutique

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Troy Browne: Mitchell’s the Bowl, for Stories in Place on Vimeo

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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