White Supremacy has been in debate for a long time, a period that could extend even to centuries. The negative narrative it has inflicted — the colour of a person reveals his character. People of Color in America and around the world have been the victim and we are still fighting for equality, but sometimes this bleakness results in the loss of life, which is too vicious to accept. Melina Matsoukas debut feature, Queen & Slim, tracks a similar narrative, with an interesting Bonnie-Clyde runoff story at its core.
Queen & Slim, as the titles suggests, centers around two Core Characters, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya), who meet for the first time, in the film’s opening scene. Thus, even their chemistry with each other is as new as it is to the audience.
Queen and Slim sit in a diner, in the midst of an awkward Tinder date. There is a visible lack of chemistry. Queen had swiped right on Slim, because she had a rough day but observing Slim’s habits, like praying before eating the food, makes her eyes roll, signifying, these two are not going to come along. While driving back to home, Queen and Slim are pulled over by a cop for a minor traffic violation. Things get pretty ugly when the cop turns out to be a racist who ends up dead in hustle with Queen and Slim. Terrified, the couple decides to flee the scene.
They don’t just run away from the scene, but have to leave behind their lives, family and friends because the cops are chasing them. They drive towards Florida to escape the authority, thinking once they reach Cuba, things will be bit easy. But whichever land they go to, there is no going back. Their past lives are history.
Meanwhile, altered footage of the cop incident from the dashcam gets viral which turns the two outlaws into folk heroes. Wherever they go, people recognize them and help them but the parasitic cynicism of White Supremacy is too deep in the blood of Americans, and for anyone who tries to put an opinion, meets his/her fate.
“Nothing scares a white man more than seeing a black man on a horse because they have to look up to him.”
Bonnie and Clyde of Color
Queen’s estranged Uncle Earl, detonates Queen and Slim as the black Bonnie and Clyde. Though the reference seems entertaining to some level, it could be argumentative too, as Bonnie and Clyde famously, robbed banks. They were criminals. But Queen and Slim are not criminals. They were just driving away and when pulled over by the cop, tried their best to cooperate. But when things turn nasty, as an act of self-preservation, they impulsively or accidentally killed the cop. Putting aside, the argumentative portion of it, the reference also gave the film, a new outlook or a perception in the minds of the readers, where the these two, running from the law, creates their own legacy and become the face of a revolution in the film. The larger question, however, is whether they wanted to be a part of this?
In white nations, people of colour, have to undergo very dominant racism which is unavoidable and unignorable. They live their lives in fear and separation forming their own community. Thus, this division is expanding with each such incident, where a white man’s barbaric action has an equal reaction, and thus the peace and harmony looks far fetched.
News, Social Media and other means of communication are already being upheld by people who en-cash the violence, but I guess, Cinema is the only progressive medium left, where people are still free to narrate the truthful version of these incidents.
Queen & Slim is an intelligent and important film, which doesn’t defend any community or influence hatred against anyone, while still being able to tell an entertaining tale. Yet, the comparison of Queen & Slim with Hollywood’s other film, of the same theme, would make this one, less impactful. It is no “Green Book’, but we hope more notable cinema from the debut director Melina Matsoukas in near future.
Queen & Slim is available on HBO MAX.
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