*That moment. The sound of the siren from a distance moves closer, the lights shine through the rear window. It’s a traffic stop. A moment that can be startling and nerve-racking for any driver, and it’s no secret that that interaction for black people, especially black men, can and has been a contentious one.
A new study from Stanford University, the Stanford Open Policing Project, compiled the most comprehensive evidence to date suggesting there is a pattern of racial disparities in traffic stops. The study is the largest database ever researched and points to the pervasive inequality in how police decide to stop and search white and minority drivers. It found police stopped and searched black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers, who are more likely to be found with illegal items.
In the past few years especially, the issue is one that’s caught the attention of the media, activist groups like Black Lives Matter and now filmmakers. On the surface, it’s what “Queen and Slim,” the debut feature film for Lena Waithe, is about.
“Lena crafted this beautiful script that was both political, that is saying something, that was pushing the culture forward, that was challenging the status quo and that was just a great read, like it was just a really entertaining ride and I wanted to be apart of that,” said Melina Matsoukas, who is also adding feature film directing to her repertoire with the creation of this film.
Set in Cleveland, Ohio to start, the place where Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy was shot and killed by a police officer in 2014, Waithe said there’s an even deeper meaning and significance to choosing the Buckeye State as the film’s location.
“A big part of it [is] the death penalty is still alive and well there. So we kind of took that to task a bit,” she said.
Yes, this film tackles and highlights very controversial, timely topics, something Daniel Kaluuya, who plays the main character Slim, has become accustomed to with many of the roles he chooses, or is seemingly drawn to.
“It’s just my gut. I just go with my gut and go ‘this is how I’m feeling, this is how the people around me are feeling, let’s go,” he said.
But there’s a paradox in the film as well, that, when watching the trailer, some may miss. As much as this is a socially conscious and political story, multiple cast members and producers of the film made a point to mention at the World Premiere in Hollywood at the start of AFI Festival, it’s also an in-depth love story.
“I think it speaks to the disposable nature of love these days,” Kaluuya said. “And that’s what I find really exciting about it, that this story can only happen now, because connection and love are so separate nowadays.”
“Queen & Slim” from Universal Pictures hits theaters November 27, 2019.