Since she became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing, people have been eagerly anticipating Lena Waithe's feature-length debut. And with the June 24 release of the Queen & Slim trailer, they don't have to wait any longer.
Queen & Slim follows a young black couple (Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya as Slim and Jodie Turner-Smith in her big break as Queen), who are pulled over on a first date by a white police officer. After the officer threatens them, Slim kills him in self-defense and the two are forced to go on the run. The trailer hints at heavy themes like police brutality and racial injustice in America, but above all, director Melina Matsoukas called it a film about "the strength of black love." She made the comment on Sunday, June 23, at the 2019 BET Awards, where the trailer premiered with an introduction by Waithe, Matsoukas, and Turner-Smith.
The three women explained the messages behind the film. Waithe recalled Nina Simone's statement that "it is an artist’s duty to reflect the times," adding that she "wanted to explore a world where being pulled over by the police is like playing Russian roulette and your only weapon against injustice is your ability to never let go of who you are."
"It's a story of resistance, a story in which we are never victims, and most importantly, a story about the strength of black love," Matsoukas said. "We set out to create a film that shows how our unity as black people, our love, is our greatest weapon against oppression. It's our power."
Though this is Waithe's first feature-length screenplay, she has proven that she's more than capable of navigating sensitive topics and writing complex characters. Her Emmy-winning episode of Master of None, "Thanksgiving," showed her character Denise coming out to her friends and family, and was hailed as "one of the best coming out stories on television" by AV Club. "Thanksgiving" was also directed by Matsoukas, so it's safe to say, then, that fans can expect Queen & Slim to have similar thought-provoking and artful moments.
Queen & Slim has already sparked comparisons to Bonnie and Clyde, another couple famous for being on the run from the law. Bonnie and Clyde's life as criminals is often romanticized, often by Hollywood — but it's likely that their whiteness has a lot to do with that. Some have pointed out that there is a double standard in media headlines about crime-committing couples: White couples are often referred to as an imitation of Bonnie and Clyde, decriminalizing and romanticizing their actions. Black couples, however, often don't have their innocence preserved in the media.
The trailer even shows this through a newspaper headline: though Queen and Slim were acting out of self-defense when they shot the police officer, the Nashville Sun headline reads "Hunt for Cop Killers," leaving little room for empathy.
When Waithe spoke about the film at CinemaCon earlier this year, as reported by Indiewire, she said, "Queen & Slim is what I like to call protest art. It’s meant to get people talking. The film is not made to give the audience answers, but instead to ask questions and show what it looks like to be black and in love while the world is burning all around you.”
Queen & Slim hits theaters November 27, 2019, and there's no question it will inspire plenty of debate and conversation, much like the trailer itself.