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The Lena Waithe-produced comedy features writer-producer Blank in her directorial debut — a personal ode to the stories sparked by adversity and dreams unfulfilled. The film follows Blank’s Radha, a fictionalized version of herself, a Black female New York playwright still struggling to get her big break in the industry as her 40th birthday approaches.
“Remember this face?” a white male journalist says, as Rahda sits next to him during a taped segment. “We watched, but where’d she go?”
Radha teaches playwriting to smart-mouthed high-schoolers between her days and nights spent working and schmoozing to get her next big project off the ground. Yet, the “30 under 30” talent still finds her hustle and her identity regularly belittled and sidelined by the industry’s racist and sexist gatekeepers despite years of work.
“It rang a little inauthentic,” a white man at Radha’s latest show declares. “I asked myself, did a Black person really write this?”
Fed up with an industry that feels entitled to determine her vision and her worth, Radha pivots her career into hip-hop with a mixtape about the 40-year-old experience. With her agent and even producer initially questioning her judgment and ability, Radha also begins to wonder if she’s “some crazy old broad for doing this.” Still, she forges ahead in the two-and-half-minute trailer as rapper RadhaMUSPrime to create “something that is mine.”
Using her skill and overlooked talent, the playwright melds the art of two worlds and, in the process, finds her true voice. “You not just talking about shit,” one of Radha’s students says. “You’re making shit, shit.”
Shot in black and white 35mm and produced by Jordan Fudge, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, and Rishi Rajani, Forty-Year-Old Version premiered during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where Black won the U.S Dramatic Competition Directing Award.
The film — which also stars Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Imani Lewis, Haskiri Velazquez, Antonio Ortiz and TJ Atoms, with Reed Birney — is set for an Oct. 9 release on Netflix.
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