Local filmmaker releases trailer ahead of documentary ‘Capitol Riots’


Courtesy Ralph Celestin

A woman speaks to filmmaker Ralph Celestin in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.

By Madison E. Goldberg, Managing Editor

Independent filmmaker Ralph Celestin said he will always be haunted by the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when just six days into the new year, a group of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building. Footage of the incident flooded news stations across the world. Now, the Boston-based filmmaker is aiming to educate young audiences on this dark day in American history in his latest film, “Capitol Riots.”

Celestin flew with a small production crew to D.C. to cover the Trump rally planned on Capitol Hill amid Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election—which quickly became a riot. The shocking day reminded Celestin of learning about the 9/11 attacks when he was a child, he said, and the feeling of a mass tragedy being desensitized. With years of investigative reporting and documentary experience now under his belt, he landed on the scene with a determination to preserve the true history of the deadly insurrection.

“There was a strong sense of sugarcoating,” Celestin said. “I felt like they [news stations] didn’t really want to focus on the violence or show all of the footage. With ‘Capitol Riots,’ I think I was successful in capturing the emotions of people on the ground.”

The film is set to be released under Celestin’s production company, Rise Celestial Studios, based here in Boston. Growing up as a Haitian-American in Arlington, Celestin said he frequently looked to Boston for his artistic inspiration. He began working at NBC10 Boston as a video producer in 2019, where he produced a documentary called “The Climate Project: Your Role, Your Impact.” Celestin also said he enjoys exploring other genres of film outside of documentaries, inspired by his own youth.

“It’s [Boston] where I learned how to be a man. It’s where I fell in love for the first time, where my heart was broken for the first time.” said Celestin. “When it comes to my art and what I create now, it’s all a reflection of the person I am now—and I came from the road less travelled. I grew up in the projects in Arlington in a single parent household, and even that experience plays a role in my focus on creating inspirational coming of age dramas.” 

Celestin has offered professional guidance in the film industry to Emerson students for decades, even casting some students in his films. Taylor Rampe ‘11, who graduated with a degree in marketing from Emerson, assisted Celestin with location scouting and played a small role in his acclaimed film “Boston to Philly.”

“He was always super friendly and willing to help guide me in his portion of the industry. He was always happy to take [Emerson] students on both sides of the camera,” Rampe said. “He has a very unique voice and approach to the industry. I had a great time working with him.”

“Boston to Philly” garnered numerous accolades in the independent film festival circuit, including Best Actress at the Las Vegas Black Film Festival and Best Film at the Motion Picture Association of Haiti, even getting nods from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The film follows a young Black man from Boston as he begins college in Philadelphia, in wake of a tragic accident that takes the lives of his immediate family. 

“Boston to Philly” was the start of a string of different jobs within the entertainment industry for Rampe, from animal training to personal assisting.

“The Emerson Mafia is a really strong facet to have behind you,” said Rampe. 

Celestin is also currently working on a documentary about the systemic inequities in healthcare exposed during the pandemic, which he hopes to release later this year. Through his work, he said he hopes to not only educate the youth on sociopolitical issues, but also inspire them to take action, or create their own work.

“Light your own fire, and you will never be extinguished. Independent filmmakers have absolutely no barriers because it’s their own work,” said Celestin. “You can have a 9-5, but when you’re not afraid to be independent and create the art that you want to, that speaks to the person that you are; that’s something extremely powerful.” 

Viewers can watch the trailer for “Capitol Riots” on YouTube, and the official release date for “Capitol Riots” will be announced on the Rise Celestial Studios website. You can follow the film’s progress on Twitter @RiotsMovie, or on Instagram @Capitolriotsmovie.