Forest Whitaker Film About Inglewood Debuts June 19

Thursday, June 11, 2015 Written by 
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Life in Inglewood will be played out on the big screen beginning next week when “Dope” comes to local theatres.  The coming of age film, produced by Forest Whitaker, Nina Yang Bongiovi, and Pharrell Williams opens in local theatres on June 19.


Subtitled, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Geek,” the film centers around high-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons).  Malcolm has dreams of going to Harvard, as he finishing out his school year, bonding with friends over '90s hip-hop culture, studies and playing music in their own punk band.


A chance encounter with a drug dealer named Dom lands Malcolm and company at the dealer's nightclub birthday party; when the scene turns violent, they flee—with the Ecstasy that Dom secretly hid in Malcolm's backpack. A wild adventure ensues as the youths try to evade armed thugs who want the stash.


“Not only is it set in Inglewood and it’s dealing with black culture,” Whitaker said. “It (also) deals with identity—being being able to find your authentic voice . . . and it deals with issues of profiling and how we perceive people. And I think that’s important to talk about.”


Whitaker and Bongiovi also produced the critically acclaimed “Fruitvale Station,” a biopic of Oscar Grant III, the unarmed black man, shot in the back and killed by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009.


Described as “Nerds In the ‘Hood” and named by L.A. Weekly as one of the 10 Movies to See at L.A. Film Fest 2015, the indie hit from this year’s Sundance Film Festival opened on June 10.  Advance screenings were hosted on June 7 by KPCC & The Frame at the Sundance Film Festival, and at Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15.


An article on KPCC’s website ( described writer/director Rick Famuyiwa as crafting “a visual love letter to Inglewood” in the film.   Famuyiwa, who grew up in Inglewood, between Ladera Heights and “The Bottoms,” told The Frame’s John Horn that Inglewood helped him find his creative voice.   


The film was inspired by his desire to “revisit and redefine what I was doing as a filmmaker. And I felt that Inglewood, being the place where I found my original voice, would be the place where I would re-find my voice,” he said.


Famuyiwa added:  “I had a lot of friends in Ladera and throughout Inglewood, so it was important to me to bring this area to life because Inglewood was really where I found my voice and my core group of friends that I still have today,” he said.


A fan of films by director John Hughes (“The Breakfast Club,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), Famuyiwa used the coming of age stories as a model to write about his own experiences.  He wanted to give kids who grew up in communities of color like The Bottoms something they could relate to, stories that reflect how America really looks. 


People of color can be geeks who aspire to attend Ivy League schools despite being from rough neighborhoods.  It doesn’t matter if they’re from The Bottoms or white suburbia.


Famuyiwa wants to broaden the attitudes that mainstream movie goers have of young people of color;  to make it okay to talk about blackness and do away with the label of “urban films,” which is a code word for people of color.


“Any film set in a city is an urban film. All these labels seem to come about when you’re talking about people of color," he said.


Famuyiwa invites those who see the film to leave their comments at #MyDopeReview.  The Frame, KPCC’s daily arts, entertainment and culture program, airs weekdays at 3:30 p.m on 89.3 FM.


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