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Stars Idris Elba, Regina King and Jonathan Majors joined director Jeymes Samuel — better known by his musical name, The Bullitts — for the festival’s first in-person media event in two years following 2020’s pandemic-impacted affair.
Elba and Samuel, Londoners who have known each other for some time, said they grew up watching Westerns, particularly on the BBC. But first-time filmmaker Samuel said he was often left disappointed by the genre’s depiction of both Black people and women, something that inspired him to turn the tables for his debut feature.
“The scope they showed those stories through was very narrow,” he said. “They didn’t really leave a way either side for any other interpretation. Women were always subservient. And if you were a person of color, you were less than human.”
Elba said he came on board the project not just because of his long relationship with Samuel (“We grew up together, doing stupid shit”) but because of the opportunity to help “redefine the genre, which is definitely special.”
For King, however, she admitted she had never been a fan of Western films, but was drawn to The Harder They Fall both through Samuel’s enthusiasm (including a particularly wild-sounding FaceTime intro that he started by shouting “Peace to the Black Queen” to her) and the role of its female characters, particularly compared to other period films.
“The thing that’s so unique about this is that they’re so different. Their existence is not based on any man or a child or a parent or a story that has to connect to something other than who they are,” she said. “To have these women who are so different but still have those layers and not be one-dimensional was exciting. And for a man to do that makes it even more special.”
The Harder They Fall — which was produced by Jay-Z — will have its world premiere Oct. 6 at London’s Royal Festival Hall, kicking of the London Film Festival, which runs Oct 6-17. The film will launch on Netflix on Oct. 22.
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Red Sea Film Festival