There are plenty of films with commentary surrounding race, commodification, self-worth, and what it means to be normal. However, none of those films have been as strange, compelling and masterful as Boots Riley’s debut feature film; Sorry to Bother You. As Riley said bluntly in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “I’m not good at sounding like somebody else or doing what someone else does.”
Starring the incredible Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green, the film follows a young Black man trying to find his purpose in life in an alternative version of Oakland. Living in his uncle’s (Terry Crews) garage, Cass finds solace in the arms of his artist, sign-twirling girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) who chooses activism over affluence.Desperate for more in life, Cass finds a job at telemarketing company where after receiving some advice from an older co-worker (Danny Glover) he quickly rises up the ranks. However, what he isn’t prepared for is what he’ll have to sell or how he’ll have to sell out to stay at the top. Steven Yuen, Omari Hardwick, Armie Hammer and Jermaine Fowler also star.
At the MACRO Lounge presented by Shea Moisture at Sundance Film Festival, Riley, Thompson, Yeun and Crews lounged on a plush couch and discussed bringing this magical and shocking film to life. For Riley, who is a musician, activist, and poet, the idea for Sorry to Bother You was born out of the desire to break all the rules. “I read all the hack books like, How to Write a Script in 30 Days and What Not to Do When Writing Your Script,” he recalled. “I read those purposely to figure out what rules I could play with. And, as I wrote those first few pages, I realized that that’s not the way that I create normally. ”
More than just creating a story on his own terms, Riley wasn’t interested in being confined to a certain genre. “A lot of times when people decide, even in music or film, that this thing I’m making is this genre, we edit along the lines of what we’re told is the genre,” Riley explained. “We leave out a lot of real things, a lot of real joys and pains and awkwardness and other ideas and we stick to this pretty formulated thing. If we’re gonna truly make something that comes from artists that aren’t usually able to get a voice, those artists have also had other experiences.”
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