ANTEBELLUM: QC Entertainment strikes again
Antebellum is the latest film produced by QC Entertainment, who is behind Get Out, Us, and Blackklansman. These films have all had serious successes, with Get Out winning the oscar for best original screenplay (Not that the oscar awards necessarily mean anything- see my article Oscar vs Cesar). Us has also become the second biggest opening weekend of 2019, right behind Captain Marvel, which cemented it as the most successful opening weekend for an original horror movie ever. Blackklansman also won the Grand Prix at Cannes.
What these movies all have in common is their exposure and critique of that defining American issue: racism. Get Out, Us and Antebellum are racial horror movies. This is a new genre that not only breaks away from conventional horror films through their direct commentary on American society and race relations, but by successfully balancing large scale entertainment with auteur style cinema. None of these films can be made into franchises, which is how many horror films today are financed and conceived. And Antebellum is no exception.
The opening scene, a masterpiece of the slow-motion tracking shot, exposes one of the two worlds presented in the film, a cotton plantation in the South. This shot plunges us deep into the horrors of slavery, thus highlighting the major flaw of the film: its very real depiction of extreme violence lead against Black folx. What’s more, the fact that the shot in itself is beautiful, is very unsettling- and not necessarily in a positive way. This can be problematic because it does nothing more than re-enact these atrocities, and critics argue that to do this a film must have a reason- which isn’t apparent in Antebellum.
The main character, Veronica (Janelle Monae), is a very strong protagonist and heroine, who is not who we think she is. While we have watched her being tortured in the world of the plantation, she is suddenly woken up by her alarm in her king-sized bed in her beautiful XXIst century home, next to her loving husband, played by Marque Richardson (who stands out in Justin Simien’s hilarious Dear White People, on Netflix). She is a celebrated author advocating for Black women’s power and who does yoga in Ivy Park, and she leaves for San Francisco to lead a conference. There she is stalked and abducted by a group of Alt-right people who have created a slave plantation to reenact the civil war. Thus we can place the first act of the film as not in the past, but in the present. Veronica must escape this world to save her life.
The film boasts some subtle nods towards contemporary culture - my favorite being the moment where the evil white lady who abducts Veronica is dragged by rope across a forest floor and slams her head into a statue of a white soldier, probably a confederate general, which references the polemic around statues like this still standing in many parts of the US. However, the violence shown against the Black folx in the film is very much shown and not told. This being a reality today, we can ask ourselves at what cost violence against people of color on the screen is insightful or just painful. Antebellum departs from the grandeur of its QC siblings for this reason, though it is still an impressive cinematic experience.Eliana, writing for Cinewax