Welcome to Screen and Film School’s second instalment of Making History, where each week we’re celebrating the black directors changing the game in an industry historically lacking diversity.
“We can discuss race all day long. But if you see a movie that successfully puts yourself in the shoes of somebody different than yourself, you see the world differently. So I think the power of story is greater than the power of conversation in a way.”
Four time Academy Award nominee Jordan Peele is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer, best known for his comedy-horror films with strong social and political undercurrents. From co-starring in the Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele, to becoming the first black screenwriter to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Peele has proved to be an unstoppable force in the industry.
In 2012 Peele founded Monkeypaw Productions, a studio that’s committed to groundbreaking storytelling, visionary world-building and the unpacking of contemporary social issues. With critically acclaimed releases such as Get Out, BlacKkKlansman, and Us, Monkeypaw has quickly grown into one of the industry’s most prolific and cutting-edge production companies, and in 2019 the studio entered into a five-year exclusive production partnership with Universal Entertainment.
“Jordan Peele has established himself as a premier voice and original storyteller with global appeal. He is leading a new generation of filmmakers that have found a way to tap into the cultural zeitgeist with groundbreaking content that resonates with audiences of all backgrounds.” – Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.
Get Out, is the 2017 directorial debut from Jordan Peele, and was released to wide-spread critical claim for its direction, acting, writing, and themes. The story follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-American photographer who uncovers a disturbing secret when he meets the family of his Caucasian girlfriend.
The film was chosen by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute and Time as one of the top 10 films of the year, and was nominated for four Academy Awards (winning Best Original Screenplay), five Critic’s Choice awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two British Academy Film Awards. Get Out is the highest-grossing debut film based on an original screenplay in Hollywood history.
“In a social thriller, the monster at hand is society,” Peele said of Get Out. “The beauty is that many horror movies and many thrillers do deal with society in some way, but in the social thriller, it’s society that is the villain.”
“It’s a model of narrative efficiency, in which every piece fits snugly into place, and every performance works on multiple levels. The result is a rare work of pop art that both quickens the pulse and engages the mind.” – The New York Times
Us is a 2019 American horror film following a young woman (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family, who are attacked by a group of menacing doppelgängers. The film was a critical and commercial success, debuting to $71.1 million (the second best opening for a live-action original film after Avatar) and holds the record for the best opening for an original horror film not based on a known property. With frequent nods to 1980’s culture, biblical references, and a terrifying exploration of America’s past and oppression, Peele proved that his inventive, ambitious, and genre-defying projects are here to stay.
“One of the central themes in Us is that we can do a good job collectively of ignoring the ramifications of privilege. I think it’s the idea that what we feel like we deserve comes, you know, at the expense of someone else’s freedom or joy. You know, the biggest disservice we can do as a faction with a collective privilege like the United States is to presume that we deserve it, and that it isn’t luck that has us born where we’re born. For us to have our privilege, someone suffers. That’s where the Tethered connection, I think, resonates the most, is that those who suffer and those who prosper are two sides of the same coin. You can never forget that. We need to fight for the less fortunate.” – Jordan Peele
“It’s compulsory seeing for everyone who loves the horror genre, the movie medium and the notion of saying sage things about contemporary life without straying from entertainment’s twisty path.” – Wall Street Journal
You hear it said time and time again by successful directors: You have to make a movie for yourself. Don’t make it for anyone else.