Excuse me, Sorry to Bother You, but my name is Franceli Chapman and I am hitting up the blogger world to talk to you about this provocative, thought-provoking film. There was so much hype about this film at Park City earlier this year during the Sundance Film Festival when Annapurna Pictures bought its distribution rights for seven figures. On June 14th, at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles the Sundance Institute held a special benefit to celebrate and honor Boots Riley (Writer/Director) with the Vanguard award. The evening featured opening remarks from Charles D. King (Macro) who is a Sundance Institute trustee. Rosario Dawson who’s voice was in the film, presented the Vanguard award to Boots Riley. The evening also featured the LA debut screening of the film. ( SORRY TO BOTHER YOU.)
Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award honors artists whose work and vision represents the highest, most breakthrough level of innovation, originality, and independent spirit. For an hour and 45 minutes you are taken into a dystopian world, the world of Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a telemarketer who finds his ‘white voice’ to success. This film pushes the envelope and makes you say, what the F&*^? is going on in this world that Boots has created? The film’s central villain, is a company, Worry Free, which signs laborers to unpaid lifetime contracts in exchange for a guarantee of meals and glammed-up prison-style housing — bunk beds crammed beneath chandeliers. It may seem outlandish but the parallels between this fantasy world of Oakland and our world may not be too far-fetched. The scary reality that a film written in 2011 is still relevant today, a world with a privatized prison system heeds us to rise up and do something about it. When the credits rolled I just sat there pondering how the rest of the world would take this social satire in. I had so many thoughts and feelings about my own battles with cultural appropriation, code switching and “black success”. Growing up, Animal Farm was a piece of literature that was set in a fictional setting, it evoked so much of the realities of the dysfunction to our system. Sorry to Bother You is meant to bother you– shock you into action if you will. A cinematic slap to America’s dysfunction. Make sure you get your dairy aire to the theater July 6th!
After the screening there was a Q&A with Boots Riley and Michelle Satter (Founding Director of the Sundance Institute). Boots began the journey of writing this story in 2011 and the skeletons of the script came from his real life experience of working as a telemarketer. To discover this film had 61 locations and was shot in 28 days just added another level of respect for hustler’s like Boots who fought his way to getting this film made. What was most telling, this stellar cast, Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick, and Rosario Dawson, to name a few, all worked on this film for SAG SCALE. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) established “scale” pay, which refers to a minimum rate for actors’ salaries. In other words, the all worked for the “actor minimum wage.”
The art, the importance of the telling of this story was clearly something these talented creatives wanted to get behind. It wasn’t about the money. Kudos to the producers Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Charles King, George Rush, Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams, who took a chance on such a cinematic revolutionary undertaking. Isn’t this why we become artists? To be a vessel, to transform minds, entertain and educate?
Speaking of reasons we become artists, I went to this event with an incredible crew of artists! Maylen Calienes founder of Latinos Filmmakers Network has always been gracious in connecting the community. At the after party, she connected us with Isabel Celeste Dawson (Rosario’s mommy) who serenaded us with her gorgeous voice, performing a song she wrote in tribute to her Godmother THE CELIA CRUZ! Meeting Rosario’s mommy confirmed what I already knew and felt of her daughter, she comes from good stock. I don’t normally fan girl, yet Rosario Dawson is the summation of what one may strive for. Being from the Bronx not many of us “get out” and seeing a woman who is from where I’m from moving in the world the way she does is inspiring! Not only is she a great artist, she uses her platform to be of service. At the afterparty we had a moment all to ourselves, she threw up the X sign (its a Bronx thing) and I was able to express my gratitude of what her presence in the world means to a lil Bronx gal like me. Its funny recently I was asked if I had to do a biopic who would I play? I said Rosario. Look at the universe working ;). This evening was another confirmation that our motivations for creating matter. Boots Riley said he hopes this film will impact its audiences to get involved in any said organization, and take any part in changing the shape of our society. The world will try to tell you to gain accolades, fame and fortune for self, but the ultimate measure to the value of our lives is how we impact this world and the people who inhabit it.