The L.A. Film Fest kicked off Monday with a pre-festival premiere of Sundance success story “Dope” at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live. L.A. Film Fest director Stephanie Allain said that “Dope” was chosen to spearhead the festival not only because of its critical acclaim, but also the film’s diversity.
“We want to be the change that we’re seeking, we’re looking for that diversity,” said Allain. “We’re just comfortable stepping into our mission…. It’s an L.A. story, it’s diverse in front of and behind the camera, it’s told in an innovative way, and it’s a unique point of view.
Variety’s Dennis Harvey wrote in his Sundance review that “Dope” has “at least as much in common with John Hughes-style high-school comedies as it does with most ‘hood narratives involving drugs, gangs and crime.” Writer-director-exec producer Rick Famuyiwa also made the Hughes analogy while describing the feature — with hope that the film’s success leads to more young urban voices on the bigscreen.
“The idea was that the same way I grew up watching John Hughes movies and was able to relate to those… those kids from suburban Chicago can relate to Malcolm and Diggy because the story is the same and being a teenager is the same,” Famuyiwa said.
In agreement with her director, actress Kiersey Clemons said “Dope” brings a fresh take on high school life that needed to be shared.
“There was ‘Superbad,’ there was ‘Mean Girls’… I felt like so much has changed, why can’t we have that next movie?” Clemons added. “High school’s not like that anymore…. I’ve been asking for it, I know our generation has been asking for it, and we finally got it.”
The nerds-in-the-hood tale addresses the struggle of identity as leading man Malcolm (Shameik Moore) journeys into his truth of being unclassifiable. Actor Keith Stanfield voiced that the subject of identity is something that all moviegoers can benefit from given the recent headlines of an America torn by racial strife.
“I think [‘Dope’] will definitely help, especially because perception is a big issue,” stated Stanfield. “I think things like this well help us sort of break down structured barriers that we naturally put around you based on things like skin color or gender or things like that. I think it’s very time-appropriate.”
Underneath the film’s message played a majority of ’90s beats and rhymes, but present-day musicians were also featured in the film as supporting characters. Rappers A$AP Rocky, Tyga, Kap G and Vince Staples all appear in the film and attended the premiere.
The dopeness continued at the after-party, where there was a dance floor where film stars Quincy Brown and Chanel Iman jammed to ’90s hip-hop and R&B. Also in attendance were Sean Combs and Forest Whitaker, who serve as producers; exec producer Pharrell Williams; and actors Kimberly Elise, Rick Fox and Tony Revolori.
Open Road releases “Dope” on June 19.