‘Queen & Slim’ explores challenges and triumph of black love

As I step into the Saxon Hotel in Sandton, I’m greeted by Daniel Kaluuya’s bold eyes and Melina Matsoukas’ immaculate bob braids.

I’m a nervous wreck because it’s not every day that a girl gets to bask in the presence of such greatness.

Matsoukas, the director of ‘Queen & Slim’, kicks off the conversation by letting me in on the inspiration behind the film, to reflect on the lives of black people.

“When I created ‘Queen & Slim’, I wanted the audience to see a bit of themselves in each of the characters and for most of us to relate as black people because of our experiences. I saw myself in each of them quite powerfully and I feel like all black people can kind of see themselves in that representation,” said Matsoukas.

Written by Lena Waithe, ‘Queen & Slim’, follows the story of Slim, a retail employee portrayed by award-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya, and Queen, a criminal defence lawyer – played by the British model Jodie Turner-Smith.

The film is about a Tinder date in Ohio, US, that goes wrong when the couple goes on the run after Slim kills a cop following an altercation.

Elaborating on his character, Kaluuya explained: “I play Slim, he’s on a date with Queen and it’s going horribly, but he has no idea. He is a content and a simple guy, God-fearing and just wants an easy life. He’s hijacked by a perspective that leads him to shoot an officer who’s racially profiling them and they are on the run.

“On this journey, he has to confront himself and what he thought of himself.”

Kaluuya, who also starred in the award-winning ‘Black Panther’, said playing Slim was the hardest role he’s ever had, but he has learnt so much from him and how content he is with himself.

“Slim is probably one of the hardest characters I’ve ever played because of how at peace he is with himself and how he is rooted in his family. He knows what he wants, very rarely you get characters that say ‘I know what I want, this is what I’m about’.

“From the character, I learnt that it’s okay to be content. It’s okay to want simple things. It’s okay to be accepting of yourself and also that stuff happens, there’s no good or bad, it’s just life.

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“He made me grow in the best ways, I feel like I really grew as an artist,” Kaluuya says.

For Matsoukas, Kaluuya was not an obvious choice for the character of Slim but after spending time with the actor, the award-winning director said she knew that he was the best fit for the role.

“I was a bit hesitant at first about him wanting to play the role but only because of what I wanted to get out of the character but after a couple of minutes of sitting down he had this incredible need as a black actor to portray this Slim character and he was so passionate about it.

“Looking at him, I realised that he proved to be Slim and was so believable, he could actually make everybody believe that’s who he is.

And the way he brings Slim into life is on some other high level. He related to him so well and I offered him the role,” said Matsoukas.

“The story was important to tell because that’s how black people have had to walk through life. We’ve had to have a balance between the conflict that we face on a daily basis and also find time to find your way in life.”

The same black love is also portrayed through music as the soundtrack consists of America’s great black musicians such as Lauryn Hill, Megan The Stallion, The-Dream, and more. Africa’s Burna Boy is also featured.

“I really wanted it to be this black musical journey through history so I showed the different types of genres that we have as black people, the hip hop, the Afro beats, and show our collectiveness through rhythm and the drums.

“Also, putting Nigerian music felt like the right to do,” she quipped. 

Queen & Slim’ is showing in cinemas nationwide.

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