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Trailer: New Comedy From Rapper Boots Riley ~ ‘Sorry to Bother You’ ~ Poised to Be the Sci-Fi Summer Hit

12:20 PM PDT on June 27, 2018

    [dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]orry to Bother You, the first feature film from veteran musician turned writer-director Boots Riley, premiered to a sold out, celebrity-filled crowd last Thursday at the historic The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, where the director was also honored by the Sundance Institute.

    Prior to this film, Riley was best known as the lead vocalist and producer of the Bay Area political hip-hop trio The Coup – a bass driven, politically motivated ensemble that developed a cult following during the 90's.

    Sorry to Bother You centers on protagonist Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Get Out) as Cassius “Cash” Green, a down-and-out young man struggling to make ends meet while living in his uncle’s (Terry Crews) garage in Oakland with his girlfriend (Tessa Thompson).

    Behind four months on rent, Cassius is desperate and strapped for cash. That desperation ultimately lands Cassius a job as telemarketer, a career with upward mobility but one that comes with a price. Cassius has to learn the hard way that if the grass is greener on the other side, you can bet the water bill is higher too.

    The influence behind Riley’s unique film is rooted in real life experiences. Riley worked as a telemarketer for a period of time. Sorry to Bother You is also influenced by his music.

    Fans familiar with The Coup might view the film as an extension of the rapper’s music. Riley’s frame is dense with layers of political commentary and civil disobedience.

    Some of those elements play prominently in the foreground like the gaudy array of earrings that Thompson’s character rocks throughout the film. While other elements play more hidden in the background like the montage of posters seen on the interior of the Green’s makeshift bedroom garage. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to see more than once.  

    Riley creates a colorful, and at times fantastic, alternative present day Oakland that offers a new view of a city that isn’t seen often in films. Riley described the aesthetic during an impromptu Q&A after the screening as “beautiful clutter.”

    Annapurna Pictures
    “Sorry to Bother You” director Boots Riley on set, courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

    Riley spoke Thursday night about the obstacles he faced as a new director while accepting the Sundance Vanguard Award. ”Believe me,” he recalled. “Coming up to people as a musician and saying, ‘I gotta script.’ Nobody wants to hear that.”

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    But Riley didn’t decide to become a filmmaker overnight. He studied film at San Francisco State, hoping to pursue a career as a director but ultimately chose a path in music after he was offered a record deal. As this year’s Sundance Vanguard recipient, Riley follows in the footsteps of past winners Ryan Coogler, Dee Rees and Damien Chazelle.

    After an introduction by actress Rosario Dawson, who narrates the film, Riley devoted a large portion of his acceptance speech illustrating how Sundance was instrumental in the development of the film.

    “Not only did they get on board, but they introduced me to everybody that invested in this movie through the creative producing summit, and then through the catalyst program. ” Riley told the capacity crowd. “So very literally, this movie would not have gotten made without Sundance.”

    Danny Glover, Annapurna Pictures

    Riley spent six years rewriting the script after he finished the first draft in 2012 and released the book version of the story in 2014. The strength of the film is in the script but also in the talented cast, which also features Hollywood veteran Danny Glover, that supports Riley’s unconventional narrative.  

    At the L.A. premiere of Sorry to Bother You, the sold out crowd responded to the film with intense laughter, and moments of clapping and cheering so loud you could barely hear the dialogue over the excitement. Before its official release, Sorry to Bother You already feels like an enormous success. And watching Riley collect the only award he’s ever won, appears to be the beginning to a lengthy victory tour.  

    Sorry to Bother You hits select theaters July 6 and opens wide July 13.

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