ON THE RUN Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star in one of the most important films to come out to date. Picture: Supplied
Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya stars in Universal Pictures’ new film Queen & Slim alongside Jodie Turner-Smith in a movie dubbed our black version of Bonnie and Clyde.
Instead of robbing banks, Angela “Queen” Johnson (Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya) go on a first Tinder date which ends in an altercation with an aggressive white police officer who Slim kills. The rest of the film follows the duo as they try to escape the US while the police try to hunt them down.
“It goes straight to the point. It doesn’t try too hard to build up and that’s what I liked about this film,” says Kaluuya.
The film explores police brutality against the black community through a carefully told story. Written by screenwriter, producer and actress Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas, who also directed the HBO series Insecure and Beyoncé’s Formation video, Queen & Slim explores a delicate subject with tenderness, making it an essential film in terms of the ongoing global conversations about race.
“Making this film felt important, iconic dare I say. It felt like we were making something extraordinary. Matsoukas has such a specific visual and a powerful presence ... [it was] inspiring to watch and be part of,” says Turner-Smith.
“The two [Matsoukas and Waithe] are a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. They are so passionate, they care deeply about every single aspect of the story, every single question and every small detail in the film,” adds Kaluuya heartily.
Matsoukas told Turner-Smith about her vision for Queen, and so she studied feminist and activist Angela Davis for inspiration.
“I looked a lot at Angela Davis. I looked at her life as someone who spent most of her time defending political prisoners and was herself accused of a crime and went on the run. After that, I did the work of telling the truth of what was written in the script,” explains Turner-Smith.
Indeed she portrays Queen as being stronger and more resilient than the vulnerable Slim amid the challenges.
“I loved that he [Slim] is so strong through being vulnerable. Vulnerability is not a weakness to him. A few minutes into the film you have a character who’s like: ‘I want to go home, I want to see my family.’
“There’s so much strength in his vulnerability. I think he’s a crucial figure mainly because we don’t get to see black men portrayed like this,” adds Kaluuya.
Matsoukas was adamant about bringing a real-life feel to the film, which is why they travelled through different states as part of the escape. The evolving landscape is a character, as the mood of the film is also altered by the state they find themselves in.
“It was all to make sure that you are taken on a journey while the characters evolve. To go from the cold of New Orleans to the heat of Florida is purposeful and really informs how we engage with our surroundings,” adds Kaluuya.
Reviews by The New York Times and the Washington Post seem to conclude that Queen & Slim is a great film, but find the fact that a sex scene is intercut with a protest scene to be “a poorly judged sequence”, as per the Washington Post.
So why was it essential for the sex scene to play out as it does with the protest?
“This film is about two people falling in love while the world burns around them. And that scene is that. It’s a moment of a deep and powerful connection between two people. They are speaking to each other with their bodies in a way that’s beautiful and sensual. At the same time, outside of them, the world is burning down and that is in many ways the reality of many black people around the world. We can have this deep pain and struggle going on but we will find a way to love, and that in itself is a form of protest,” says Turner-Smith.
And what should black people take away from the film?
“I hope it makes them feel something. Whether they feel angry, happy or vindicated, I want them to feel connected to the piece,” she says.
“I hope they see themselves as seen. I hope they feel seen,” adds Kaluuya.