January 25, 2020
The Queen & Slim director on working with Beyoncé, filming in a polar vortex and being told that casting a black woman in a lead role isn’t profitable
Melina Matsoukas: ‘I didnt grow up seeing dark-skinned people fall in love on screen’
Melina Matsoukas, 39, directed some of the most acclaimed music videos of the 2010s, including Rihanna’s We Found Love, Solange’s Losing You and Beyoncé’s Formation, for which she won a Grammy. She has also directed episodes of TV shows Master of None and Insecure. Her debut feature film, Queen & Slim, is written by Lena Waithe and stars Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya as an African American couple on a first date who are forced to go on the run when one shoots a white police officer in self-defence. Matsoukas was born in New York, lives in Los Angeles, and is of Greek, Jewish, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Jamaican descent.
Your leads are played by black British actors, but the film seems very much about black America. What was it like working with two Brits who might not have context for this story?I disagree completely. My first memory of police brutality was when they killed this young man named Amadou Diallo [in 1999], an African immigrant living in the Bronx. He was killed with 41 shots when he reached for his wallet. He had just moved here, trying to make a better life for himself, but all they saw was a black man who was a threat. I remember growing up in the Bronx and visiting the apartment building where he was gunned down – that made an incredible impact on my life.
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