The 2019 BET Awards were held on Sunday night, hosted by actress Regina Hall. Although Hall made a big deal hailing from D.C., the awards were mostly non-politically, with a few exceptions.
One marginal example came when “The Central Park Five,” redubbed “The Exonerated Five” after renewed attention brought by the Netflix Series When They See Us, got a standing ovation as they introduced a performance by H.E.R. of her politically-tinged song “Lord Is Coming.”
But a bigger moment came with the presentation of a trailer for the upcoming Universal film about a police shooting. Introducing the first look at Queen & Slim were screenwriter Lena Waithe (Master of None, Ready Player One), first-time director Melina Matsoukas (a music video director for stars like Rihanna and Beyoncé) and actress Jodie Turner-Smith. Waithe said she wanted the film to “reflect the times,” which apparently means “a world where being pulled over by the police is like playing Russian roulette.”
Lena Waithe: Nina Simone once said, ‘It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times.’ I couldn’t agree more. When it came time to write my first feature, I wanted to explore a world where being pulled over by the police is like playing Russian roulette and your only weapon against injustice is your ability to never let go of who you are. I knew I needed other rebellious artists to help me tell this story and I couldn’t think of a more fitting one than the visionary director Melina Matsoukas.
Melina Matsoukas: Bringing this film to life was challenging, it was a story I knew was necessary to tell. It’s a story of resistance, a story in which we are never victims and most importantly, a story about the strength of black love. We set out to create a film that shows how our unity as black people – our love – is our greatest weapon against oppression. It’s our power.
Jodie Turner-Smith: “Queen & Slim” is the story of two strangers that are forced to grab hands and never let go. Along with my co-star Daniel Kaluuya, we were honored to breathe life into these complex characters. It was a journey we’ll never forget.
From the film’s summary on YouTube:
While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) and a black woman (Jodie Turner-Smith, in her first starring feature-film role), are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results, when the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country.
It will be interesting to see how the film ultimately portrays Kaluuya’s character acting “in self-defense” because the brief glimpse of the scene shown in the trailer makes it look like he randomly attacks and shoots the police officer. Either way, a cop is killed and the young couple are coded as heroes in this “powerful, consciousness-raising love story that confronts the staggering human toll of racism and the life-shattering price of violence.”
My uneasy feeling that the movie glamorizes killing cops is confirmed by the fact that they’ve already taken the step of comparing the film to two other movies that romanticized outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise.
Queen & Slim is set to be released on November 27, 2019.