Director behind Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ video makes her feature film debut

Daniel Kaluuya, from left, Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe at the premiere of "Queen & Slim" at AFI Fest.
Actor Daniel Kaluuya, from left, director Melina Matsoukas and writer-producer Lena Waithe at the ”Queen & Slim” premiere during AFI Fest at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Nov 14.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Melina Matsoukas has been directing for a long time. She’s the vision behind popular music videos including some of Rihanna and Lady Gaga’s most memorable moments. Perhaps most notably, she directed Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” as well as “Formation,” which won her a music video Grammy Award. Now, she’s making her directorial debut in feature film with the new movie “Queen & Slim.”

“I’ve always been pushing someone else’s brand, or their influences, or what they believe in,” Matouskas told Mark Olsen on this week’s episode of “The Reel” podcast. “This is the first time that I feel like something has really come from me.”

But Matsoukas makes clear that she loves collaborating with artists on music videos, as long as she believes in what they’re representing and the artists believe in themselves. So she took that same mindset when working on “Queen & Slim.”

“It’s somewhat of a mediation on the black experience about two people who are very different, coming together by one very shared experience,” Matsoukas said. “They’re a couple on a first date who is pulled over by a really racist cop on their way home and kills him in self-defense. And they go on the run. And they fall in love along the way.”


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The movie is written by Lena Waithe, whom Matsoukas has collaborated with in the past. In 2017, Matsoukas directed the Emmy award-winning “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None,” which was written by Waithe.

“Immediately, our working relationship was so full of trust and love and empowerment that I knew we would continue it, hopefully, for a lifetime,” said Matsoukas.

“Queen & Slim” was released Nov. 27. And when you see it, Matsoukas urges audiences not to compare the story to Bonnie and Clyde.

“I don’t like when black films are based on some white archetype,” Matsoukas said. “It’s like, we can never just be ourselves. We always have to be compared to something else in order for it to make sense. It can just make sense because that’s who we are and that’s our culture, so I don’t like trying to box it in in some way.”

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