January 1, 2024

REEL | 'American Fiction' on Black Voices x WFF 2023

"I just think it's essential to listen to Black voices right now."
Jeffrey Wright Issa Rae Cord Jefferson | American Fiction
Whistler Film Festival
Former journalist turned veteran television writer Cord Jefferson makes his directorial debut in the irreverent literary satire American Fiction, based on the 2001 novel Erasure by author Percival Everett. Starring Jeffrey Wright as a struggling middle-aged author and professor, Jefferson uses our narrow views of the Black experience against us to mine a steady stream of biting racial humour.

Wright as Thelonious (aka "Monk") gives a hilarious performance as an uptight contrarian trying to navigate the tricky (and extremely white) world of publishing. While purposely cartoonish in its dramatization of corporate America's treatment of artists of colour, Jefferson is too smart and seasoned to over-stretch the real-world frustrations between art and commerce.

Co-starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Sterling K. Brown as Monk's divorced doctor siblings with their own struggles and Issa Rae as a rival author, the film doubles down on its excellent cast, character dynamics, and interpersonal relationships to heighten the sociopolitical jokes about how much white people love embracing Black representation without doing any of the a actual hard work.

Jefferson manages a fine balance of outright racial satire and family dramedy. His detours from the more mocking elements of liberal whites superficially embracing diversity to the complications of being part of a strongminded Black family does exactly what he and Everett are criticizing in the lack of nuanced portrayals of African-Americans. American Fiction is a laugh-out-loud exploration of its literary material wrapped in a warm-hearted character piece.

American Fiction screened at the 2023 Whistler Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations program.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Vox

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