I have recently been given the awesome opportunity to see pre-screening of the film Supremacy, starring Joe Anderson and Danny Glover, and directed by Deon Taylor. I was also give then opportunity to talk on the phone with actor Joe Anderson himself and got some insightful looks into what he went through making this movie. I must confess that I previously had not heard about this movie until about two weeks ago but it was officially released in select theaters on January 30th, 2015. It was shown a year ago at the LA Film Festival.
But once the pre-screening opportunity was offered to me, I had to go check out the trailer to better understand what type of film I would be watching, especially considering that it is a deviation from my traditional comfort zone of sci-fi/fantasy and superheroes.
So go ahead and take the time to watch the trailer like I did so you can have a better understanding of what this film is about:
Now read the this brief synopsis of the film and then I'll get more in depth with my article:
A just paroled white supremacist and his ruthless girlfriend kill a cop and take an African American family hostage. Meanwhile, Sobecki, the heavily-tattooed supremacist leader who oversees his criminal empire from behind bars, is not thrilled when he learns of his charge's screw-up. The patriarch of the family, an ornery ex-con himself, must rely on his wit and understanding of the racist mind to find a plan to free his family, but not before he confronts his own brand of bigotry and anger.
Analyzing Deon Taylor's Style
To analyze this film, you really need to go look at director Deon Taylor's previous work like Dead Tone and Chain Letter. That simple fact is what made him a good choice for directing this film and yet it also made it an uneasy film to watch.
For any family, it would be a real-life horror experience to have someone break into your house in the middle of the night waving a gun around. To add to the intense, stressful situation would be to make that intruder a member a racist who hates you for what your color is and all the misguided stereotypes he believe you and "your people" are guilty of.
Seriously, think about it, no matter who you are or what your racial origin is, imagine a hate-filled, racist bigot breaking into your house. Imagine looking down the barrel of the gun as he screams at your family, calls them derogatory names and spouts vulgarity for emphasis.
The Element of Horror
I think that's what draws me to movies and good stories so much, I place myself in the shoes of the characters on film and imagine how I'd react. In the case of Supremacy, I found myself bubbling with anger and fear.
The anger came from the obvious fact of having my freedom intruded upon, the safety of my family threatened, and the inability to do anything about it.
The fear came from the several of the same reasons: my freedom, my family's safety. But my fear also came from the urge to act. It leaves you in-between a rock and a hard place: "Do I act and risk getting out of this situation alive? or do I remain compliant and risk the possibility of being killed anyway when this dude snaps?"
These are all the emotions that I felt watching Supremacy and they are the emotions of Danny Glover's character, Mr. Walker.
Deon Taylor, with his unfiltered dash of horror added to the film, allowed the watcher to have their hearts race in their chest, their palms become a little clammy from sweat, and their bones to shake in anticipation. Watching this movie, I experienced all of the above, it was a rough film and not an easy one to swallow in one go, it took me several attempts to make it through because of how unfiltered the film was from the intense moments shared between characters.
When speaking Joe Anderson, I asked him about the emotions he felt when reading the script he stated that the way the script was written, it left lots of room for improvisation but stated:
"What struck me the first time was that Garrett Tully was in prison for a very long time. When you're in prison, there's often this condition of segregation: black people hang out with black people and white people hang out with white people. But to see Garrett Tully go full circle and go right back to prison except this time he was now being shunned by white supremacists for not killing the family like he was ordered to."
He also went on to say:
"I wanted to not let him [Garrett Tully] be a one-note character. I wanted to show that there was this human in him so I tried to show that through the acting instead of just the dialogue on the script."
Does the racial tension ever break?
As I mentioned above, I had to struggle to finish the movie. But considering that this film was based on a true story and because I've liked movies like American History X, I thought maybe this might be easier to get through. It wasn't.
Every single scene, just about, had me cringing, there was hardly any down time to the film's intense nature and heavy subject matter.
I asked Joe Anderson if there were any difficulties of using such foul language and terrible racial slurs at a legendary actor like Danny Glover and he stated:
"No, not really. There wasn't a whole lot of interacting between me and Danny Glover when we weren't shooting. I don't know if it was just his method of acting but it left me comfortable enough to do what I needed to do as an actor."
He did go on to speak about the hardships this type of role had on him both on and off set:
"On the set there was this boy, a very young boy. And here I am, a white man with swastikas and other Aryan symbols tattooed on his body saying these awful, racist things, that were often improvised due to the script. So as soon as they'd yell 'cut' I'd run and just hug the boy or whoever else I had to improvise my racism at because that's just not who I am. I'm completely anti-racism, anti-classism.
It became so hard, in fact, that even when I was standing in the kitchen with my wife, she try and talk to me and I'd find it difficult, I'd just be blank. Even though I wasn't like that, like Garrett Tully, I had felt like I had done these horrible things. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I had to learn to leave it behind me, otherwise my wife wouldn't have got two words out of me."
But it didn't remain that way for the entirety of the movie, there was a redemption in the end and after hearing so many derogatory names being tossed loosely around by Joe Anderson's character, Garret Tully, enough was enough and Danny Glover's character thought so too.
At the end of the film, Danny Glover gives a speech that is the redeeming quality of the entire film. Read on for spoilers:
At the end of the film, after so much damage has been done by the two antagonists of the film, Mr. Walker and Garret Tully end up in a pantry of sorts as cops surround the house. The horrific event has gone on all night and both men are wearied from everything. We hear Tully spout out more racial slurs as he aims the gone at Mr. Walker's head.
That's when Mr. Walker begins to talk to show Tully some tough-love. He begins to break down the origin and meaning of the word Tully so easily throws around at Mr. Walker. He says the word over and over again to Tully who we can now see start to crack and finally, Mr. Walker tells Tully: "There's only one n****** in this house. It's you. It's you..." and on and on it goes. We see Tully slump to the floor in tears, and placing the gun in his mouth, ready to end his own life.
Mr. Walker rises above what most of us would have done in that instant and bends down and takes the gun from him and hugs the man. Yes, you read that right, they hug it out. It was a very emotional and powerful scene to watch. Mr. Walker than escorts Tully outside where he would knowingly be apprehended by police.
Of course, I asked Joe Anderson about this specific scene as well and if he thought this was a completely redeeming moment for Garrett Tully or if he though, going back to prison, he might have regressed. He replied:
"One thing I tried to do was to allow that ideology that Garrett was human sink in even before the third act of the film. I wouldn't say it was a complete redemption but it was definitely something he would never forget."
The question the movie, I feel, leaves the audience asking of all people no matter what color is this:
If you are driven by bigotry and hate, what is that could make you change that and turn away from it all? What would need to take place to bring you to your knees, embracing the ones you used to despise?
Are you brave enough to ask for forgiveness?
If you find yourself victimized by the evil and twisted mindset of those who believe themselves superior to you, do you have it in you to forgive them? Would you be willing to forget the horrors one has caused you if they asked that of you?
Are you brave enough to forgive?