The stars all aligned Thursday night as some of the biggest names in Hollywood descended upon the renowned TCL Chinese Theatre to attend the worldwide premiere of Lena Waithe’s and Melina Matsoukas’ feature film debut, “Queen & Slim” as part of the 2019 AFI Film Festival opening night.
The film follows a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) and woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) in Ohio on a very rough first date. On a mission to end their night and return to their homes, they get pulled over by a police officer for what appears to be a minor traffic violation. However, things quickly take a turn when the man operates in self-defense and kills the police officer. Afraid for their lives, they go on the run, not knowing that they have become visions of trauma, terror, grief, and pain for people throughout the country after video capturing the incident goes viral.
Writer of the film, Lena Waithe spoke to The Knockturnal on why it was so important for this to be her first feature film. “I just feel like I wanted to write something that felt like a battle cry, like protest art, and it was just a space I was in. I was feeling very traumatized, l was feeling like I didn’t have a voice, and I think that me sitting down at my laptop reminded me that not only do I have a voice, but I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard.”
Waithe’s script attracted Daniel Kaluuya (“Slim”) to the project. He credits the simplicity of it as one of the reasons he wanted to be a part of it. ”I think people don’t realize how hard simplicity is and the accessibility of it. It feels like anyone can just sit down and watch it, you don’t have to go to film school to understand what Melina (Director) is showing or what Lena is saying and it just spoke to me, it spoke to me, and I love the Tinder element and the love story.”
Soon to be a household name, Jodie Turner-Smith (“Queen”), also shared what it meant for her as a woman of color to have her first major leading role guided by Waithe and Melina Matsoukas as they all collectively share being women of color and this being their first featured film. Turner-Smith said she felt nervous. “There is that desire to make sure that you want to be excellent, you want to show up and f*****g kill it you know but it also made me feel just like privileged and honored. It was though there was a sacredness to the project because of that you know, I wanted to really do the best that I could and really just surrender to the whole thing.”
Inside the theater, support for the film was in abundance, filmgoers included: Rihanna, Zendaya, Natalie Portman, Tracee Ellis Ross, Evan Ross, Snoop Dogg, Janelle Monae, Kelly Rowland, Tina Knowles, Solange and Queen B herself, Beyoncé.
The screening was followed by an after-party at The Hollywood Roosevelt where guests celebrated the film and congratulated the stars/creators with drinks and lots of dancing!
This premiere also served as the kickoff to AFI Fest 2019 presented by Audi. Outside of the TCL Chinese Theatre, there is currently a striking art installation titled #ChangeTheChairs from artist Kate Raudenbush. The piece will remain throughout AFI Fest (Nov 14-21) with the purpose of showing the success of female directors and honoring those directors who have created paths and support more women getting to tell stories.
Additionally, Natalie Camou, Audi’s inaugural AFI fellow created a custom content piece that goes along with the #ChangeTheChairs installation. Natalie’s piece shows the impact of promoting female-directed films and features many hard-working female directors and be viewed here.
Queen & Slim hits theatres on November 27th! You are not going to want to miss it. Make sure you check out the trailer as well if you haven’t seen it yet.