Two of my favorite narratives of the festival–Violet and Executive Order–both dip into the realm of the fantastic to explore some very complex topics. Mental health, generational trauma, race, and reparations are the topics that become fodder for some very odd elements in both stories. In their own way, the films tackle these concepts thoroughly and with plenty of takeaways for the audience.
Justine Batemen wrote and directed this eclectic film about a woman, Violet (Olivia Munn) who is plagued by her own inner dialogue. It is a dialogue that the audience can see in a script written on the screen and the voice of Justin Theroux. The voice works to judge, question, and warn her against doing the wrong thing, like a conscious. However, it goes further to insult and belittle her. But, she can’t detect that negativity. The written script is her inner truth, which at first comes off as her dreams. As Violet realizes that her inner voice is not helping her, she finds that the script is the truth she is trying to avoid.
Violet is an exploration of the way we handle trauma. In Violet’s case, that trauma is generational in the form of negativity and judgment passed down from mother to daughter. Her mother belittles Violet until the girl puts up huge walls and made rules to protect herself. It doesn’t take long to figure out whose words Violet is really hearing in her head. When she finally does start ignoring the negativity her life and love change for the better. Her inner truth talks about feeling like she is in “new skin”, a new person. Then, tragedy threatens to drag Violet back home to the source of her trauma, where she may not be able to recover.
So many adults are still walking around with their adult trauma. They also internalize it like Violet has, letting that trauma dominate their lives and dictate their decisions. Violet carries an important message for those folks. That you can heal from that trauma by getting to the source of that negative voice in your head. In doing so, like Violet, you can free yourself to live your best life.
Violet premiered at SXSW.
Rating 4 of 5
Lazaro Ramos uses Afrofuturism to tell the story of a lawyer Antonio (played by Alfred Enoch) in Brazil who is trying to fight a racist system and its absurd new law. The country has decided that, as reparations, send its Black or “high melanated” citizens to a settlement in Africa.
This only goes for citizens who appear “high melanated”. Others who are white-passing are considered exempt from this rule. In one humorous scene, a high melanated journalist points out that the government official announcing the program is of Afro descent herself. That’s when the rule was explained to only mean high melanated in appearance.
Antonio is fighting the law and trying hard to save his people. The program was first considered voluntary and plenty of people were happy to leave the racist state for a fresh start. However, soon that choice became a mandate and things go downhill quickly.
Executive Order combines humor, fantasy, a bit of thriller to comment on several nuanced race topics. The scene where the white-passing high melanated person explains why she is allowed to stay while others are not is a very important example of colorism. Antonio’s court battles are great reflections of the absurd but very real double standards and Kafka-esque regulations and rules that BIPOC face in societies like the one in Executive Order. That is America and Americans will find plenty to identify within the film. Although it is set sometime in the future, the society Ramos created offers parallels that any Afrocentric society will identify. Click here for An interview with Ramos and The Black Cape. This is a film that proves diverse stories told by diverse voices can educate and entertain at the same time.
Executive Order premiered at SXSW.
Rating 4 of 5
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