Cord Jefferson's directorial debut, American Fiction, is a scathingly comedic look at the commodification of marginalized voices and what it means to be represented beyond tired and outrageous stereotypes. When it premiered at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, it won the coveted People's Choice Award.
The publishing industry satire stars Jeffrey Wright as Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, a highbrow novelist told that his books aren't Black enough. ("I'm Black, and it's my book," Monk tells his publicist, who responds, "You know what I mean.") Inspired by his nemesis, Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), the widely popular author of We's Lives in Da Ghetto, Monk drunkenly pens an exploitive autofiction of his own under a pseudonym — which quickly becomes his most successful work to date. The cast also includes Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Adam Brody, and Sterling K. Brown.
Writer and director Jefferson (an Emmy Award winner for HBO's Watchmen) adapted American Fiction from Percival Everett's 2001 novel, Erasure. "Erasure was published more than 20 years ago, yet the questions it asks remain painfully relevant," the filmmaker points out.
"Why is American culture fascinated with Black trauma? Why aren't Black professors depicted in books and films as frequently as Black drug addicts, or Black rappers, or Black slaves? Why is it that white people with the power to greenlight films, books, and TV shows have such a limited view of what Black lives should look like? I've asked myself these questions many times before when I hear yet another slave movie is going into production, or when I see that another talented Black actor has been hired to portray a drug dealer, pimp or single mother who needs to overcome her unenviable lot in life," Jefferson says. "This reductive view of Blackness makes me angry. And I've funneled that anger into American Fiction."
American Fiction opens in select theaters on Dec. 15 and expands Dec. 22. Watch the trailer below.