Chewing gum sculptures, a wealthy gallerist, a firebrand wrestler, a notorious murder case, and the segregated south—it’s all part of Nellie Mae Rowe’s boundless universe. This World is Not My Own reimagines this self-taught artist’s world and her life spanning the 20th century.
The film begins with her birthday on July 4, 1900, artist Nellie Mae Rowe’s life spanned the 20th century. Nellie made art in obscurity, propelled by a force she viewed as a God-given gift, for most of her life. As the daughter of a sharecropper and former slave, she made art from whatever she could find. As an adult, she transformed her home into her “Playhouse,” an imaginative oasis filled with vibrant drawings, handmade sculptures, dolls, and collected objects. Six years before her death, a wealthy gallerist, Judith Alexander, “discovered” and introduced her work to the art world.
Over four acts, This World is Not My Own traces the lifespan of an artist who struggles to dedicate her life to the art while exploring the personal and political events that shaped her singular body of work. The film mixes traditional documentary techniques with animations and scripted scenes shot in intricately detailed sets to bring her emotional story to life.
Opendox created film sets that reimagine Nellie’s “Playhouse,” and partnered with Kaktus Film to design and animate 3D characters in Nellie’s and her gallerist’s likenesses. Actresses, Uzo Aduba and Amy Warren perform scripted scenes based on Nellie Mae Rowe’s quotes. Their recorded voices and movements make the animated Nellie and Judith come to life.
Three-time Emmy Awards winner, Uzo Aduba, lends her voice and movements to our animated Nellie Mae Rowe. Among many memorable performances, Uzo is known for her role as “Crazy Eyes” in the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, and for her portrayal of Shirley Chisholm in Mrs. America.
The actress, Amy Warren, lends her voice and movements to the gallerist and arts patron, Judith Alexander. Amy is an experienced stage actor appearing in countless broadway plays and musicals. On-screen, she’s known for her roles in Gravity and Mistress America.
This World is Not My Own is an American Swedish Co-Production supported by the Swedish Film Institute, Jewish Story Partners, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Judith Alexander Foundation, the David Schwartz Foundation, and many generous donors.