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'Stories are being told about people that weren't being told before and it is really exciting'

The Day Shall Come tells the story of a preacher in Miami, who is turned into a criminal by the FBI. Georgia Humphreys chats to star Marchant Davis and director Chris Morris to find out more about the real events which inspired the film

Fresh face: Marchant Davis in The Day Shall Come
Fresh face: Marchant Davis in The Day Shall Come

By Georgia Humphreys

The biggest manufacturer of terrorist plots in the United States is the FBI. That's a surprising discovery Chris Morris (57) says he made while researching for the satirical thriller The Day Shall Come - his first film since 2010's acclaimed Four Lions.

"Now before you step in and say I'm mad, what happens is that they choose someone who they think is suspicious, and then they wind them up to commit a number of legal indiscretions until they've done enough to be arrested," says the Colchester-born writer/director/actor.

"That winding up involves constructing a terrorist plot that the person hasn't come up with, and then getting them to take a number of steps that are self-incriminating until they can be sent to jail.

"And it's done with the supervision of the department of justice so they don't arrest until that person will be convicted, which is why they have a 99% conviction rate."

The black comedy - which Morris directed and also co-wrote with Jesse Armstrong - focuses on impoverished preacher Moses Al Shabaz, played by newcomer Marchant Davis.

Moses is 'Sultan' of a mission called The Star of Six Farm, which he runs in the Miami projects with his wife Venus (played by Orange Is The New Black star, Danielle Brooks); he bans guns, fights crime and dreams of overthrowing the government.

One day, a stranger offers him cash for his 'revolution' and to save his family from eviction. But what Moses doesn't realise is the sponsor is an FBI informant.

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What first made Morris want to make this film?

"Well, basically the story was hurled at me like a brick from Miami and it hit me on the head when I was in London," he says.

"I was watching a British TV news bulletin which reported that the FBI had arrested an army operating out of a warehouse in Miami that was planning a full-scale ground war against the US. And I believed it.

"Three years later in the States, I bumped into somebody who was working on that trial, and he said, 'Remember that ground war? It was actually seven construction workers planning to take over Chicago by riding in on horses'. And I thought, 'Right, I've been lied to and I want to know why'.

"I hunted it down and found out that this wasn't a one-off; this is a repeat sort of modus operandi for the FBI."

The organisation don't know who's going to carry out the next attack, he reaffirms, but they "can see somebody who sticks out like a sore thumb" - and that's the story of Moses in The Day Shall Come.

"He's trying to make ends work in the poorest part of town, he's preaching on Facebook live, he has a congregation of four; he wants to right the wrongs of history, but he's never going to do it," notes the effusive Morris.

"He crops up on the FBI radar and they say to themselves, 'Is he dangerous or is he not? And if we decide he isn't dangerous, what if that comes back to haunt us?' So they have to, from that point on, push him until they can convict him. And that's what happens.

"There are over a million people on the terrorism watchlist in the States now, and that's because the analysis is too broad. It's like, 'Are they brown? We suspect that they might be a terrorist. Are they black? We suspect they might be a terrorist'."

The FBI has "even come up with this new identity of black identity extremists", Morris adds, "which was in response to black people being shot by the police and then other black people protesting".

"The FBI went, 'Shall we look at the white people? No, lets worry about the black people who are protesting against their fellows being shot. Let's call them black identity extremists'.

"So, at each stage there's a decision that's made, that puts you closer to the things that happen in the film."

For Davis, who was less than a year out of drama school when he started filming The Day Shall Come, why he wanted this role was simple.

"Chris Morris," he says.

"I think his dedication to the people he was trying to put up on film was admirable for me, and he did a lot of work... I felt like he was asking for permission but also honouring these people.

"I didn't know much about the film before I got the job - I didn't get the script until after I got the job!"

It was 'empowering' for Davis to know the material in the film had been taken from real life.

"When we were auditioning, I brought in things that he didn't know. I talked to him about the Move organisation in Philly (a black liberation group founded in 1972 in Philadelphia) and I had a chance to put my own stamp on it.

"So, I think the great thing is that it was based in some truth, and also on actual events, and that gave me a sort of anchor."

The warm and smiley star agrees it's a positive time to be entering the film industry too.

"I feel like there are a lot of people who look like me who are at the helm of stories, who are telling stories, who are in stories," he suggests.

"There are stories being told about people and things that weren't told before, like The Central Park Five, and it's really exciting.

"And Spike Lee won an Oscar - you know what I mean?

"When Spike won, I cried my heart out... watching Samuel L Jackson present it to him and give him a hug."

The Day Shall Come is in cinemas now

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