When 2018 moviegoers entered the multiplex to see sorry to disturb you, it is unlikely that they knew what awaited them. Some expected Boots Riley’s debut film to be a late-night comedy peppered with broad satire on work culture and code-switching. Audiences familiar with Riley’s left-leaning hip-hop group The Coup suspected the satire would go deeper than the trailer implied, unearthing the institutional structures that oppress the working class…as long as Hollywood n did not interfere with the messages. Whatever the expectations, sorry to disturb you knocked them down, delivering a punch of dreamlike visuals channeling real-world horror and resistance.
The film is funny, mind-bending, and profound, a deconstruction of corporate oppression, the honey trap of upward mobility, class/race/performance intersections, and the feedback loop between all of these, revolving nauseatingly into the belly of the American capitalist state. A world so horrible, so much bigger than us that we usually choose to get used to it – which is exactly what the state wants.
Four years after his explosive debut, Boots Riley returns with the streaming series i am a virgin, an absurd coming-of-age story about a thirteen-foot black man in Oakland. Although the series is streamed by Prime Video (a company owned by the type of character Riley has skewered in his music, activism, and film), the Oakland-based rapper/activist/filmmaker shows no signs of tempering his view. radical artistic or political convictions. Here’s everything we know so far about Riley’s upcoming series.
Plot: what we know
The impact of sorry to disturb you was largely the product of the major turns and tonal shifts its story took. At first glance, the film’s idiosyncratic aesthetic and structure seem loose and chaotic. However, the film is meticulously constructed, weaponizing its surreal aesthetic and jaw-dropping twists to reflect a weird world that only gets weirder (and more sinister) when you start paying attention to how it works. All the spectators knew that the film was a magical and realistic dive into the world of telemarketing, that it has been – but not exactly how it would be described on the drive back. There are reasons to believe that i am a virgin will play similar games with their audience.
To preserve the impact of his new series – described by Hollywood journalist like “a ride on a 13-foot-tall black man (played by [Jharrel] Jerome) who lives in Oakland, Calif.” – Boots Riley was cautious about plot details. “I don’t want to give people an idea of what to expect,” Riley said in an interview with IndieWire. “It’s all my thing.” Although he was unwilling to discuss the story in detail, he hinted at some themes: “It’s about a group of kids at an age who, because they’re black, […] they are not allowed to come of age. It’s about how the world sees it, as opposed to how it sees itself.”
This illuminates Riley’s approach to the material: having a series centered around a thirteen-foot black man isn’t just some absurd fantasy. It illustrates how black bodies are dehumanized by racist perceptions and policies, suppressing the true self of the individual. Tall African American men are frequently targeted (from microaggressions to acts of murder) due to the racist caricature of the “Big Black Thug” in the American Popular Consciousness projected upon them. Riley hyperbolizes this social paradigm by making its protagonist a literal giant.
We also know that the show will be bound by a story with an ending. In the IndieWire interview, Boots Riley lamented the manipulative tactics TV shows use to keep audiences coming back week after week indefinitely. Although it’s not a limited series, Riley insists that the story will end and focus more on engaging the audience and making them feel something other than awe. attract to maintain ratings.
Riley fans find themselves in a similar position to the preparation before sorry to disturb you: we have a basic idea of i am a virginand can extrapolate potential thematic ideas. But the ultimate form of the show remains uncertain.
Cast and crew: what we know
i am a virgin features Ava DuVernay’s Emmy-winning star Jharrel Jerome When they see us. Other cast members include series regulars Allius Barnes, Brett Gray, Olivia Washington and Kara Young, with Mike Epps and Carmen Ejogo in recurring roles.
Jerome’s casting could indicate a dramatic and emotional core to the show – or simply that the young comedian has a knack for comedy. Most likely it indicates both. The performances in sorry to disturb you straddling the line between sketch comedy and nuanced drama – look no further than Steven Yeun’s character Squeeze, who verbalizes many of the film’s most cutting ideas about class and work… but also reveals embarrassing information about past intimate encounters during a speech at a rally. In order to integrate into the universe created by Boots Riley, the actors must also be adept at absurd non-sequences and strong emotions.
Executive producers include Michael Ellenburg, Tze Chun, Jharrel Jerome and Riley. The rest of the cast and crew have been kept under wraps. We don’t know yet if sorry to disturb you cinematographer Doug Emmett or production designer Jason Kisvarday will return to deliver another injection of vibrant color, trippy camera maneuvers, and environments with a spirit of their own. With only one film under his belt, it’s hard to say whether these elements of Riley’s early life are overarching to his style or specific to the world of this film, or how much they were influenced by the traits of his collaborators. It is possible that i am a virgin will take on an entirely different aesthetic (even if Riley’s former collaborators return), though it’s also informed by absurd black comedy and twisted fantasy.
Publication: what we know
No release date has been announced for the series. In an Instagram post in February, Boots Riley mentioned that the series was filming, so we can expect a release this year or next.
The show has been picked up by Amazon and will be distributed on Prime Video, which might seem like an odd choice: Riley’s whole aesthetic and ideology runs counter to that of the movie studio’s parent company. A very clear line can be drawn between Worry Free Corporation in sorry to disturb you and Amazon and the fictional Steve Lift and the real world Jeff Bezos.
This tension between the art of Boots Riley (which embraces a work-centric communist ideology) and the means of producing/distributing that art (which, like the most widely circulated art in America, is based on a capitalist methodology) is a tension that any major artist with political convictions and Riley has explored throughout his career. The Coup even released an album called steal this album. One of the most exciting things to see sorry to disturb you in a multiplex was the Trojan horse element of walking into a corporate movie theater that almost exclusively shows IP franchise movies and seeing a movie with a really radical ideology, but it was also kind of weird to give money to a corporation to experience an anti-corporate story.
Working with Amazon may be hypocritical — but it’s safe to say that Riley uses entertainment industry markets and methods as a way to widely disseminate political ideas wrapped in entertainment and spectacle. With this in mind, he plays the system, manipulates it to convey a message that challenges him. In any case, the filmmaker seems delighted to be working with the company: he is quoted in the Hollywood journalist as saying:
“I’m thrilled to be working with Amazon on this project. This show will either get me rented or banned, and as such, I’ve demanded payment upfront.”
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