Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee, a documentary about love, art and activism, tells the story of one of the most enduring couples of our times, Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis. Their achievements in love (with a 57-year marriage), art (as pioneers in black theater) and activism (always using their influence to help the people) parallel nearly a century of change in America. The film is told through the lens of their grandson, director Muta’Ali, who has an innate hunger to learn everything possible about his grandparents lives and apply their hard-won lessons to his own life today. Through pointed questions, revealing conversations and never-before-seen family archival material, Life s Essentials with Ruby Dee shares the wisdom of the ages with today s generation, carrying the legacy of Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis forward in history for the first time in feature documentary form.
Muta’Ali is an award-winning writer/director who is captivated by the human experience and dedicated to inspiring others through his work. Muta’Ali was raised in Westchester County, New York and has been a filmmaker since the age of twelve when he saved up his money to buy a Hi-8 camera and filmed everything from stop-motion animation to live-action shorts with it.
Muta’Ali is a lover of both science and the arts. While completing his Bachelors of Science in Information Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, Muta’Ali fed his creative spirit by studying film in the summers. Selected as an GEM Fellow by IBM Research, Muta’Ali earned a patent at IBM’s Almaden Research Center for a unique graphical user interface, completed his Masters of Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and subsequently began his career as an independent filmmaker.
In 2001, Muta’Ali became a member of the Writers Guild of America. He was commissioned to write a chapter in an NAACP Image award nominated compilation of essays, and in 2004 he began producing what would be a series of several coming-of-age documentaries on rising stars and multi-platinum recording artists under record labels including Def Jam Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Atlantic Records.
In his over ten years of experience in entertainment news, Muta’Ali produced over 125 segments featuring notable figures including 50 Cent, Idris Elba, Ice Cube, and BET Network founder Bob Johnson.
Muta’Ali most recently made his foray into feature documentaries about social issues including cyberbullying, and his latest film Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee became Kickstarter.com’s 7th highest funded African American-related documentary in the world.
In addition to filmmaking, Muta’Ali has appeared on NPR, ABC, Fox News, NY-1, PBS, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and he has been featured in the Daily News, Essence magazine, Ebony Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times and The Examiner. His work has been featured on BET, CentricTV, VH1, MTV, TruTV, and TV One.
Brooklyn born, film producer NJ Frank has an instinctual talent for photography and film. His passion and projects are known for their thought provoking impact. He began making a name for himself producing major projects for clients including AAA, The Monique Show, Michael Mauldin’s Fastlife 360, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Universal Music Recording artists Bun B., Atlantic Music Recording artist T.I. and Johnson Publications’ Ebony & Jet Magazines to name a few.
Nora Davis Day
President & CEO of Dee Davis Enterprises and Emmalyn II Productions Inc. Emmy Award winner and Executive Producer for Grammy Award winning audiobook “With Ossie and Ruby: In this Life Together”. Associate Produced three seasons of “With Ossie & Ruby” on PBS.
Sonya Denyse is a creatively strategic professional. Sonya’s career spans the public and private sectors in the areas of finance, economic development, and entertainment and is rooted in the singular theme of stellar service. A magna cum laude graduate of New York University and a certified life coach, Sonya believes what qualifies her to develop dreams is that she is “more student, than expert.”Some professional highlights have included working with founding supporters of the Ossie Davis Endowment including Harry Belafonte, Lou Gossett, Alan Alda, Dr. Cornel West, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and others. In addition to producing events in conjunction with the Lincoln Center Theatre Festival, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Ray Charles Enterprises and the Nagoya Dome in Japan. Sonya was profiled by the New York Daily News as one of the “People Who Make NY Great”. She maintains positions on particular non-profit boards.
Arminda Thomas is the dramaturg and archivist for Dee-Davis Enterprises, where her production dramaturgy credits include Ossie Davis’ A Last Dance for Sybil (New Federal Theater) and Ruby Dee’s musical adaptation of John Boscoe and the Devil (EST’s Going to the River festival). Additional dramaturgy credits include the world premiere of Adrienne Kennedy’s June and Jean in Concert (which received an Obie Award) and Funnyhouse of a Negro, both for Signature Theatre. She has also worked as assistant director on productions at the Goodman and Northlight theaters in Chicago. Ms. Thomas holds an Masters in Fine Arts in dramaturgy and script development from Columbia University and is currently collaborating on a script featuring Shakespeare’s women for production this spring at Memphis’ Hattiloo Theatre.
During her tenure at Dee-Davis, Ms. Thomas served as executive producer and abridger for the Grammy-winning audio book “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together” (Hachette) and as in-house editor of “Life Lit By Some Large Vision” (Atria), Ossie Davis’ collection of speeches and essays. A musician (banjo), she has also given performance-based lectures on the role of race in the creation of American musical tradition.