Tyrese Gibson’s backyard is as luxuriously cool as you’d imagine. It’s decked out with a modern pool, cozy fire pits, multiple movie screens, and GibsiHana — his own version of the Japanese hibachi hot spot Benihana — complete with a skilled and theatrical chef. The backyard also features the Grammy winner’s Matrix-Decoded studio and, naturally, a nightclub. On Wednesday (March 23), that’s where Gibson held a small, private screening of his new short film The Black Book.
Scheduled to drop Easter Sunday (March 27), this is Tyrese’s latest passion project. He is, after all, the writer, director and star of the picture, which also features newcomer and recurring Empire star V. Bozeman. Together, they use three songs (“Can’t Break Me” featuring Bozeman, “Waiting on You,” and the Tank-assisted “Prior to You”) in order to tell a love story that might sound a bit familiar, though it also has a twist.
“If you’ve seen the movie The Notebook,” Tyrese told attendees at his exclusive premiere, “You’re seeing that I grabbed elements of The Notebook and turned it into The Black Book.”
Much like the Nicholas Sparks tale, this film features an elderly couple. In The Black Book, they are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. Due to his wife’s Alzheimer’s, an older version of Ty tries threading this story together, going down a sometimes painful memory lane, one filled with arguments, forgiveness and love. As he tells the story, fans see it unfold on-screen in the form of the aforementioned musical numbers.
“We argued and fought all the time,” the senior version of Ty says at one point. Those heated arguments were shown in the first chapter of the film to drive a message home, Ty later told the crowd at the premiere. “We had to show the resilience and strength of a woman,” the “Shame” singer explained. “I think some of the worst relationships, other than physical is the mental and spiritual abuse,” he said, “because wounds can heal up but if you tear a woman down and beat her down spiritually, it takes forever to recover from that.”
V’s connection to those scenes was even stronger. “I had to support it because I had lived it firsthand,” she said to an audience member who asked about domestic abuse’s role in the film. “And this is what we got out of it. I encourage all women to speak out and spread the word about this piece because it’s real. It’s very real.”
Those moments are jarring, somber and moving, but the film eventually transitions into a love story, capturing reconciliation, growth and forgiveness. That was also crucial for Ty.
“I feel like some of the best movies I’ve seen have some type of resolve to it,” the Fast & Furious star told Billboard during the Q&A session. “We’ve all experienced trauma and being in dark places, whether it’s relationships, family, losing family members. We’ve all been in that dark place that most of us hope never to have to go back to, but I feel like there should always be something positive, something beautiful. It was just my way of complimenting God. When challenges present themselves, I often say that you will grow through what you go through.”
This short film is also a moment of growth for Tyrese. It’s his directorial debut, a 25-minute piece shot in just three days. And much of it, like his first Billboard 200 No. 1 set Black Rose, was crafted in or inspired by his home. There’s a Marvin Gaye painting from his living room, for example, that appears in one scene. There’s also a shot of GibsiHana in another scene. As he would later say: “A lot of magical things happened in this backyard.”
Perhaps that’s why The Black Book was premiered in this backyard, too. The film is the next step in what has already been an award-winning career, one filled with accolades from big screen blockbusters to small screen success, from a commercial on a public bus for Coca-Cola to worldwide concerts and packed stadiums. Magical, indeed.
The Black Book premieres Sunday (March 27) via Revolt and WorldStarHipHop.