• untapped brilliance
  • uncommon expertise
  • untold stories
  • bridge
  • expose
  • agitate
  • push
  • create
  • shift
  • advance.
  • thrive.
  • succeed.
  • change.
  • amaze.
  • inspire.

Hell Fighter

  • Writer / Director: Elegance Bratton
  • Producer: Kate Baxter, Chester Algernal
  • Executive Producer: Charles D. King, Poppy Hanks, Aisha Corpas Wynn, Neeraj Bhargava
  • Co-Producer: Charlie Burridge-Jones
  • Prouduction Companies: Macro, five fifty five, Rainshine Entertainment, Freedom Principal
  • Composer: Jason Moran
  • Editor(s): Mariana Blanco, Inaya Graciana Yusuf
James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters: The invention of the Black Entertainment Class

Feature Doc

Marine Corps Veteran and Sundance Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival alum, Elegance Bratton (PIER KIDS, WALK FOR ME, BUCK) directs HELL FIGHTER, the story of African American Jazz pioneer and music mogul, James Reese Europe, who was a lieutenant in the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

With interviews with Colin Powell, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, and the surviving family provide an oral history that will finally acknowledge the great contributions made by James Reese Europe and his Harlem Hellfighters to American culture as the first African American unit to fight in WWI and to bring Jazz to France. Through a careful exploration of W.E.B. Dubois’s notion of double consciousness this film takes us inside of Reese’s head as he chooses to leave his music career behind to fight a war for a country that saw him and other African Americans as second class citizens. The film seeks to elevate James Reese Europe to his rightful status in Civil Rights history as the architect of the professional black musicians path towards the American dream. The child of two slaves, there was no blueprint for success in the United States for him to follow so he became the blueprint. The film explores Reese’s visionary journey from obscurity during rag time to the catalyst of the Harlem Renaissance. Through interviews with contemporary African American music stars the film interrogates the modern music industry’s role in empowering black musicians to be fully accepted in society through the work they produce.