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“Be the change, asshole.”
It’s this phrase muttered by Naomie Harris’ character in Black and Blue that presided over the red carpet of a special screening of the film in New York on Monday night. While neither director Deon Taylor nor the movie’s scribe Peter A. Dowling coined the expression — which is derived from the platitude “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” which Gandhi may or may not have actually said — it was used to explain the film’s central theme by nearly everyone in attendance.
In Black and Blue, Harris plays a black rookie cop who accidentally captures corrupt officers killing a young drug dealer on her body cam. The rest of the film is dedicated to her mission of exposing the cops with the footage, all while fighting to survive their wrath and that of the people she grew up with, most of whom are unwilling to help her because of her occupation.
“Being the change is not expecting change to happen outside of you, but actually saying that the buck stops with me,” Harris told The Hollywood Reporter. “And if I really want things to change, I have to be active. I have to do something about it. I have to take the moral stand.”
The topic of police corruption, can be polarizing for some — especially as the conversation has turned into a partisan one, with the “Blue Lives Matter” movement alive and well. But while Black and Blue may sound like a film that concentrates on the exploration of hot-button political issues, Taylor said that’s not exactly the case. Instead, the film “fuses action and thrills with a message.”
“If you make an art house film about this, no one in the world wants to see it. We see it every day on our phones. Our young kids, our youth, the culture — we’re tired. We’re tired of watching that,” Taylor told THR. “So the last thing they want is a movie that beats over the top of their head. But if you make an action movie and you don’t put anything in it, you just get an action movie. So I was really, really lucky to be able to make a movie like this and mesh the two together.”
Taylor also got lucky when it came to landing Harris as the lead. Following her role in Moonlight — which got her an Oscar nomination — she took a break from acting. Plus, she had purposely avoided taking on lead roles throughout her career. But Taylor got her on the phone, and instantly knew that “she would be the perfect person to make a movie like this.”
“This film embodies everything that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. Here, we have a female lead who is the moral compass of the movie…and she’s not valued because of her sexuality or anything like that,” Harris said. “It’s just that she is a badass. She’s a kickass, strong, fierce, independent, hugely intelligent and morally strong female. So I loved that. Then I also love the fact that it’s a movie that is super exciting. It keeps you on the edge of your seat but also talks about things that are socially relevant.”
Black and Blue also stars Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo and Reid Scott — the latter of whom said it was “refreshing” for a thriller to also have “something to say.”
The film hits theaters Oct 25.
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Red Sea Film Festival