Boots Riley – Class struggle still rare to see in film
The rapper said his directorial debut is considered to be unusual because his characters are activists.
Boots Riley has said his directorial debut Sorry To Bother You has been branded “weird” because his characters engage in class struggle.
The film features Get Out star Lakeith Stanfield as a telemarketer who discovers the key to professional success is his ability to adopt a “white voice”.
The rapper, who found fame as founding member of The Coup, said the film is infused with his communist politics.
Speaking at a LFF Connects talk as part of the BFI London Film Festival, where the film will have its European premiere, the rapper said: “Class struggle has been happening our whole lives, over many generations.
“Many films take place in a work place, going through economic struggle, and somehow struggle of any kind is taken out.
“It’s not a human emotion to fight back in many movies. Part of the reason my movie is called ‘weird’ is because people are fighting back.
“People have had to edit it out of their screenplays, and what they put in are things that don’t happen. I’ve never had a noon time cafe date and I’ve never witnessed that, but that is in every movie.
“That doesn’t happen but this is a thing that happens in other movies and we tend towards cliche because what is in the world is not what we have been experiencing in other movies.
“One of the cliches that is effective is that people don’t engage in class struggle.”
"Being part of a campaign makes you feel like you’re a part of the world and suddenly your life means something” - @BootsRiley on the political impetus that fuels him as an artist #LFF pic.twitter.com/7IhMQrMqHb— BFI (@BFI) October 11, 2018
Describing the long journey to get the film made, he said: “You’re a musician with a script, who wants to read that? I don’t want to read that! They probably thought that the quality is suspect.”
He added: “I didn’t pay bills sometimes, so there was also being behind in rent for 10 months, there was also electricity getting turned off, things like that.
“But I knew just from doing music that sometimes you have to be somewhat irresponsible to get your thing done.
“I can’t recommend that because that would be me being irresponsible with your life but the way this whole system is set up, you have to spend so much time surviving that you’re not going to get this stuff done.
“So if you’re ok spending a few days with candles or avoiding the landlord, then film making is for you.”
Riley said originally Get Out director Jordan Peele had wanted to take on the part eventually played by Stanfield, but dropped out before filming began.
"So much of what I do and my politics is written across my face like a tattoo so that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t dilute my beliefs" - @BootsRiley on the personal stance that fuels his freewheeling satire #LFF pic.twitter.com/MrUwAPW54o— BFI (@BFI) October 11, 2018
He added that Atlanta star Donald Glover also agreed to the part, but was then cast in Star Wars film Solo, which eventually led Riley to Glover’s Atlanta co-star Stanfield.
“I met with Lakeith and he seemed crazy enough and he was wearing a beard and convinced me he was not 15 but he wasn’t known to the public,” Riley said.
“Get Out hadn’t be out yet. He was the skinny dude on Atlanta for a while but he was known to actors and they knew how serious he was and it sent up a flare to other actors that we were taking it seriously. ”
Sorry To Bother You will be released in the UK on December 7.