LOS ANGELES — Queen & Slim — the upcoming film about police brutality directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe — is "a love letter to Blackness," Waithe said at the world premiere.
The lesbian screenwriter, addressing the packed crowd Thursday at the storied Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, said she was guided by God when she wrote the screenplay.
The film, which has been billed as the "black Bonnie & Clyde," centers on a Black man and woman (Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith) who run from the law after killing a police officer in self-defense.
"I’m nothing more than a vessel," Waithe said. "I want to show us ourselves, even the parts we don’t like looking at. This movie is my battle cry. This film is a love letter to Blackness. I hope you read it with an open heart."
Waithe, an Emmy-winning writer and creator of Showtime's The Chi, also thanked distributor Universal Pictures for "realizing that a movie about Black love is not an indie film. It’s the kind of film that could potentially make a lot of money at the box office."
Waithe shared the stage with Matsoukas, who had previously directed the award-winning "Thanksgiving" episode of Master of None. The pair used the platform of the opening night of AFI Fest — Matsoukas is an alum of the American Film Institute, with credits that also include HBO's Insecure and Beyoncé: Formation — to give their own love letters to one another in their road to "birth a film."
"Thank you for choosing me, for giving me this gift and allowing me to breathe my own breath into it," Matsoukas said. "Thank you most of all for seeing me. For being strong in your art but also vulnerable and open to my challenging opinions and criticism. That is what you call real trust. Thank you for putting in the work, for dealing with my midnight calls and early-morning rants, for understanding and loving and just being the revolutionary artist that you are."
"You are redefining the culture," Matsoukas told Waithe. "Thank you for embracing me in your sisterhood. I am forever grateful."
Waithe replied in kind. "Making art together was our destiny," she said. "I am glad God led me to you. There is no one else I’d rather go to war with. There is no one else I’d rather turn up with. There’s no one else I’d rather change the world with."
Queen & Slim has thus far received rave reviews for — in the tradition of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing — using cinema to shine a spotlight on racism, violence against marginalized people, and extreme social injustice. The cast also includes Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson, and Pose's Indya Moore in a small but moving role.
Queen & Slim will be released November 27 in the United States. Watch the trailer below, and don't miss the rest of AFI Fest in Los Angeles, which runs until November 21.