Sundance 2017 has come to an end, but with a bang, not a whimper. At the Saturday night awards, films that took on politics and feminism came out on top. And before that, a gathering of women to discuss the path forward turned into a heated discussion about intersectional feminism and race.
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The scariest film to come out of Sundance arrived the Monday after Donald Trump took office, when comedian Jordan Peele (“Key and Peele,” Keanu”) unveiled a secret screening of his upcoming horror film “Get Out.”
Peele, known for satirizing America’s social landscape as one half of the sketch-comedy duo Key & Peele , makes his directorial debut with the tale of an African American man (“Black Mirror”’s Daniel Kaluuya) heading upstate to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time.
It's not their interracial romance that's the problem, but how the seemingly open-minded people in her hometown react: The rich old white folks eager to compliment Chris's physicality, ponder his sexual prowess, make sure to tell him how much they admire Tiger Woods.
Chris is relieved, then, to meet other black people around town – but can't put his finger on why they act so oddly happy to live in subservience, disquieting grins stretched across their faces.
It’s “The Stepford Wives” for a micro-aggressive 2017 America in which racism still lurks beneath a progressive smile, ignorant to its own existence.
The film, which Universal releases nationwide on Feb. 24, premiered at Sundance on the heels of Trump's first few days in the White House as the anxieties of the nation's minorities were exacerbated by fears of what's to come. It couldn't feel more timely.
“It was important to me for this movie not to be about this black guy going to the South, to a red state, where the presumption for a lot of people is that everybody’s racist there,” Peele told the audience. “This was really meant to take a stab at the liberal elite that tends to believe that they’re – we’re – above these things.”
The cast (including Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford and Lil Rel Howery) is sharp, and so is the unblinking racial satire seeded in darkly humorous moments that ring acutely, awkwardly true – like when Chris tempers his initial trepidation as Rose (Allison Williams) insists that her affluent liberal parents are far from racist because, after all, her dad “would vote for Obama for a third term if he could!”
Among the sold-out midnight crowd was an enthusiastic Patton Oswalt, who stood up during the post-screening Q&A; to tell Peele that the film, produced by "The Purge" and " Split " horror maven Jason Blum, was brilliant.
Also reportedly spotted in the late-night audience: Former first daughter Malia Obama, who made the most of her trip to Sundance (and readied for her upcoming internship with film mogul Harvey Weinstein) not by partying her way through Park City but by actually watching films.
Her reported presence at “Get Out” made those President Obama references ring louder, but also underscored the prescient timing of its release.
Premiering at Sundance two days after the world witnessed a historic show of solidarity by women and minorities united against Trump’s proposed policies , “Get Out” is a mildly gory, crowd-pleasing ride with a pointed provocation for its mass audience: If you think racism no longer exists, look more closely.
Peele got the idea over eight years ago while watching division erupt in liberal circles as Hillary Clinton and Obama faced off in the primaries for the Democratic nomination.
“All of a sudden the country was focused for a second on the black civil rights and women’s civil rights movements and where they intersect, and there was this question of, ‘Who deserves to be president more? Who’s waited long enough?’ Of course, it’s an absurd thing that civil rights are even divided. It should be one civil right," Peele said.
“For while when we had a black president, we were living in this post-racial lie,” he added. “The idea of, ‘We’re past it – we’re past it all!’ For me, and for many people out there – as all black people know – there’s racism. I experience it on an everyday basis. This movie was meant to reveal that there’s this monster of racism lurking underneath some of these seemingly innocent conversations and situations.”