Halifax filmmaker Cory Bowles’s first feature — about a black man torn about his role as a police officer — has been picked up for distribution in the U.S., where he says audiences are eager for honest depictions of the modern black experience.
The Trailer Park Boys star announced this week that Samuel Goldwyn Films had acquired his film Black Cop, and plans are underway to roll out the award-winning movie in America.
Bowles — who wrote and directed the 90-minute, micro-budget movie filmed in Halifax — said the film has already screened in about a dozen U.S. cities on the festival circuit, and won best narrative feature at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
The movie explores the relationship between the public and police and examines racial profiling through the eyes of the title character, played by Toronto actor Ronnie Rowe Jr.
Inspired by incidents of white police officers shooting unarmed black civilians, Bowles said he wanted to create a dramatic, character-driven satire that explored complex themes around police race relations.
“It follows a day in the life of a police officer who is pushed to the limit after being profiled by his colleagues off-duty. He begins to pull a reversal and inflict a sense of shoe-on-the-other-foot justice,” said Bowles, 44, said in an interview.
He said reactions to the film south of the border have been mostly positive, with some audience members saying it evoked a range of emotions, including anger.
“We want our stories told, and it’s sometimes how we tell those stories … that is scrutinized and sometimes you have gatekeepers that will not let you tell the story that you need to tell,” said the Truro, N.S.-raised Bowles, who is also an actor and choreographer.
“The response has been exciting — electric — albeit, it’s a hard topic right now for a lot of people. For everybody, really.”
Seeking the intimacy of theatre
The movie was first shot as a short film in 2015, but Bowles said the black cop character “would not leave my head,” so he wrote him into a feature film.
Bowles said he wanted to focus on the psychological impacts of racial profiling, and to engage the audience through the lead character’s monologues, which are set against a black backdrop, the camera often tight on Rowe Jr.’s face.
“Some of this is written in the way I would write for a character on stage,” he said. “In theatre, you get to sit with that character and have an intimacy with them that sometimes you don’t get on screen, so I wanted to bring that same intimacy to the screen.”
He said people often do not take the time to truly understand other human experiences because of the nature of social media.
“Our engagement ends in the echo chambers. So with this, I wanted to say, ‘No, you’re going to sit with this character. We’re going to take you on a roller-coaster ride after this quite traumatic event and we’re going to unpack it and you’re going to watch it — and it’s going to be fun, but it also might be uncomfortable’.”
Plans for a theatrical release have not been announced, but Samuel Goldwyn Films said the movie will be available on demand on May 1.
“Black Cop is not only a thrilling ride but a cutting satire that delivers a strong message,” said president Peter Goldwyn in a press release. “We are excited to get the audience in the cruiser.”
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