‘Watchmen’ star Regina King makes history with Venice Film Festival distinction
One night in Venice, Oscar-winning actress Regina King made history.
Her feature film directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” which premiered Monday at the Venice Film Festival, is the first movie directed by an African American woman to be selected in the festival’s history.
King has directed TV episodes of everything from “Insecure” to “Shameless.”
“One Night in Miami’s” themes are more than timely.
“It’s a love letter to the Black man’s experience in America,” King said in August. “They’re unique. I mean, they’re deities. But here, they’re just talking about their fears and concerns and being vulnerable and honest.”
Three-time Emmy winner Regina King is up for a fourth for her lead turn in HBO’s “Watchmen.” And she directed her first film.
The movie, adapted from Kemp Powers’ play by the same name, tells the story of one night and four Black icons: boxer Cassius Clay (also known as Muhammad Ali), activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown. (The first clip from the film debuted Tuesday.)
In February 1964, Clay emerges victorious from the Miami Beach Convention Center as the world heavyweight boxing champion. Due to Jim Crow-era segregation laws, the boxer can’t stay on the island, but instead spends the night celebrating with his friends at the Hampton House Motel in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.
The cast and crew began filming in January, and when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they considered pressing pause.
“Then George Floyd and Breonna [Taylor] happened and just all the other people who have been killed and the calling the cops on Black people, and we decided we had to get this done right now,” King said in August. “Because we’re in a space where white people are saying, ‘Yeah, I would hear Black people cry out, but I would never hear it.’”
“We felt like we had to get this movie done and out there, because we’re in a moment where people might be open to what it has to say,” King said. “We’re having deeper conversations about race right now, and I’d like to see those conversations move toward actionable things. Maybe this movie might help move the needle in that direction.”
The director is moving at least one needle: The Venice Film Festival has a history of subpar gender parity. Although “One Night in Miami” is not in competition this year, it has highlighted the need to recognize more Black women at the event.
“A woman will get a shot, and if she does not succeed, that shuts things down for years to come, until an opportunity comes again for another woman to get that shot,” King recently told the Guardian. “So I am so grateful for our film to be a part of the festival, but I really, really want it to perform well, because there’s so much talent out there and there are so many talented directors.”
As Barack Obama in “The Comey Rule” and Malcolm X in “One Night in Miami,” Kingsley Ben-Adir took on two larger-than-life figures — in overlapping shoots.
While the Italian film fest has in the past nodded to Black male directors like Spike Lee, John Singleton and Steve McQueen, it has honored far fewer Black female directors. (Martinique’s Euzhan Palcy won the Silver Lion for the director in the competitive section in 1983 for “Sugar Cane Alley.”)
“It’s interesting, because how this film performs will open doors or maybe close doors for more Black female directors,” King told the Guardian. “That’s how things seem to work.”
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