The American Society of Magical Negroes Stirs Controversy
The American Society of Magical Negroes Stirs Controversy

The American Society of Magical Negroes leading cast members Libby and Smith had an appearance in Atlanta on Tuesday, March 5, to have an interview regarding the film. shared what happened during the interview and also gave a glimpse into the filming experience of Libbi and Smith.

Smith discussed his personal experiences with his character and revealed he was somewhere connected with the script.

The leading cast member said, “I connected with the script. I saw myself in it,” He added, “I grew up in a very white community, Orange County, Calif., and I internalized a lot of the messaging that I received from my white peers.”

He continued by saying, “I compromised myself; I made myself small in order to survive socially, and it was a very dark time for me.”

“It was only after I got out of that community that I experienced a real liberation and real empowerment, and I defined my Blackness for myself, and I connected with the community and I healed.” The actor continued.

Character Aren struggles with feelings of isolation and tries to minimize his presence. He states, “I just got that vicious cycle mentally of ‘I feel so uncomfortable in this environment, in this space, so I’m going to appease in order to feel less uncomfortable.'”

“But then that then gives them permission to further disrespect me, which then makes me more uncomfortable,” Smith continued.

The story of The American Society of Magical Negroes is meant to recall the hurt that arises from living within this cycle and repeatedly compromising oneself for the sake of others. Seeing these experiences unfold in such an outrageous way is uncomfortable but familiar.

Libii’s creative decisions also drove the cinematography to reflect this break from the cycle of self-compromise,

The director’s unique findings on cinematography also prompted this leave from a process of self-compromise.

The director said, “Making sure a story reflects your vision is about being honest at every step of the way. And being a director is a million choices.”

He stated, “From a look perspective, I wanted the look of the film to reflect the main character.”

“And so it is a very soft, gently lit film, very modern lighting, very colorful, very artful … and I liked this idea that there’s this character that is sort of bursting with these gentle, beautiful colors, but they can’t really be expressed, because of how colonized he is.”

As Aren’s identity becomes clearer and more authentic, there is a noticeable change in the lighting and vibrancy of the film.

According to Libii, this change is a subtle journey that mirrors the main character’s transformation as he takes up more space and becomes more vibrant himself.

He stated, “a subtle journey in the same way the main character is taking up more space and himself becoming more vibrant.”

He continued, “A classic example of that is how you talk to white cops, this is what you gotta do to stay alive, this is not about your pride, don’t worry about it, just do it,”

Libii added, “And I believe I slightly over-learned that lesson, and it interfered with my ability to take up space and be confident.”

Libby is equally concerned with Smith’s character, Aren, and the purpose behind the magical society.

“That message, especially for Black people and I would say especially for Black men, is incredibly embarrassing and incredibly shameful for me to raise my hand and say ‘I was colonized in the following ways,’” he said.

Libii clarified, “My job is to be incredibly honest about an experience I haven’t really heard anybody talk about,”. He continued, “It feels important to just be incredibly, almost painfully, honest about it and try equally hard to be incredibly entertaining.”

Aren’s yarn sculptures evolve with his character development, a transformation that Smith explains throughout the film.

“Aren is a soft individual, and that’s not welcomed by society for Black men to be seen as ‘soft.’ His art is all about his pursuit of piece and softness and comfort and that’s exactly what he was pursuing in his life the entire time,

“and he was obviously using the wrong tactics to get there, but by the end of the film, when he finds his strength, he realizes it’s the strength to be soft in the face of a world that doesn’t allow that, that won’t allow that or that wants to take advantage of that,” The director stated.

He continued, “There’s also a bit of taking up space there, too, in terms of he’s unable to defend his work, which is a stand-in for his point of view and a stand-in for himself.”

“He’s unable to say ‘I made this and I believe in this. This is who I am’ at the beginning of the film, and he’s able to do that in the end of the film.”

“It’s interesting because he basically learns how to create boundaries and protect this symbol of gentleness,” he said. “I see a dichotomy of strength versus soft, like he’s learned how to stand up and assert his need to be gentle. Fighting to be at peace, that’s the dichotomy.”

Smith and Libii are aware of the controversy surrounding “The American Society of Magical Negroes”. The film puts emphasis on the magical elements in everyday personal battles, which not all viewers agree with.

“I know there are Black people who see this and say, ‘Hey, that’s me. It’s really comforting to hear someone else say that,’” Libii said.

“I also think there’s going to be Black people who see this and say ‘Oh s—, is that me?’ in a way that is incredibly uncomfortable to reckon with consciously, or for some Black audiences, unconsciously the reckoning and a real discomfort.”

The creator continued on the various reactions the film received from the black community.

“There’s also going to be Black audiences who say ‘Nope, never done it.’ God bless those people because we’re a wonderfully diverse community, you know.” The director added,

“But to me, my job isn’t to calibrate how each one of those discrete audiences will feel, it’s how to speak my truth and try to do it with integrity and … trust that ultimately there’s going to be healing and positivity for that.”

The American Society of Magical Negroes is set to release in the united states on March 15, 2024, by Focus Features and Universal Pictures International.

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Hi, my name is Adeeba. I like to watch Movies, TV Shows, and historical dramas, and also, I love to travel and explore new places and cultures. Writing is my hobby. Also, it helps to share my experience...

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