Let me get a few things out of the way first. I was immediately turned off by Antebellum in the first five minutes. I mentally was not ready for those scenes especially after hearing a commercial stating that “Donald Trump has done more for Blacks than anyone other than Abraham Lincoln” Please note that Lincoln did not free the slaves but I digress. I turned it off and only went back after seeing a clip of Janelle Monáe wearing some fierce fashion! I am however glad that I went back.
Antebellum, a film by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, starring Janelle Monáe, Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe, is a thought provoking, socially conscious film. According to Bush, “We wanted to grab the audience by the throat and not let go until the other side of the movie,” and those opening five minutes took me on a hell-ride that I was not ready for.
Monáe plays successful sociologist and best selling author, Veronica Henley who finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality facing past, present and future. The plot forces you to try to determine what is real versus her imagination. Eden (Monáe’s past character) gives us a glimpse of life on the plantation. The proud march of the soldiers carrying torches chanting ”blood and soil” reminding them to maintain their ”White” heritage; the picking of cotton, that’ is later burned to the rape and claims of being owned. It is all there and you can’t mistake the frightening parity as it relates to current American racism. Black people are often expected to be seen and not heard.
Slavery was never meant to end, it was interrupted. This interruption has shaped a significant part in the way that Black people continue to be viewed in this country. As the film takes you from present to past, you see examples where not much as changed. Veronica’s (Monaé) treatment at the luxury hotel when asking a simple request while witnessing spectacular service of a white customer to the table selection by a white hostess.
The film is not all about slavery. We see moments of female empowerment. Veronica (Monaé) speaks out during an interview on a TV talk show with a conservative. The family dynamic shows that her husband is not only proud of her but that he views her as an equal. We see moments of confidence that she instills in her daughter.
Viewers will appreciate the role that Gabourey Sidibe, Dawn, plays. She exemplifies pride and excellence, and has no problem speaking her mind or demanding respect. I am sure that “Becky” was not expecting it. And what good is a film, that doesn’t show the importance of girlfriends. Girlfriends who cheer you on and support you while looking fabulous. Here is where you see lots of great fashion.
The future shows Veronica being kidnapped after leaving her friends and you can’t help but wonder if this is an example of how ”We Make America Great Again” when you see that she has been taken back to the “past”. During “The President and the People” a town-hall held in Philadelphia, Pastor Carl Day, challenged Trump's widespread campaign slogan asking when was America great? Day, a black man, remarks “that it pushes us back to a time in which we cannot identify with such ‘greatness.' “You've said everything else about choking and everything else, but you have yet to address and acknowledge that there has always been a race problem in America.” The President’s response speak to that of privilege that most black people will never know. “Well, I hope there's not a race problem,” Trump said. “I can tell you there's none with me because I have great respect for all races — for everybody. This country is great because of it.”
Terrifying thought? How can we move the country forward when the President doesn't realize that we have a race issue. Much like Veronica/Eden we face the loss of freedom and denied access. Antebellum shows us what this could potentially look like. It showed motivate you to not only get involved in the political process but take a stand.
Are you planning to watch Antebellum? Get details here. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language, and sexual references Running Time 105 minutes