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Why ‘Sorry to Bother You’ Director Boots Riley Thinks His Satirical Comedy Is ‘Realistic’

The cast and director of “Sorry to Bother You” gathered for the opening night of BAMcinemaFest Wednesday at New York City’s BAM Harvey Theater to talk about how the premise of Annapurna Pictures’ satirical comedy is a reality for many African-Americans.

The film follows a telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield), who mimics the voice of a white person to climb the ranks of success at work, eventually entering into a world of wealth and corporate greed. First-time writer-director Boots Riley described the film as an “absurdist dark comedy with magical surrealism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarketing.” The comedy is also inspired by Riley’s 2012 political rap album of the same name.

“The film is more real than the supposedly realistic film of life that [other movies] show because ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is talking about things people don’t usually talk about in films,” Riley told Variety. “I’m looking at contradiction as irony and irony is like comedy and that’s why it all works.”

“You’ve never seen anything like it before,” Stanfield said about the social and political commentary in the film. “The main thing is to have a good time and if you want to pick up on the little jewels in between, stay woke.”

Tessa Thompson, who plays Stanfield’s artistic and rebellious girlfriend in the film, said she was ecstatic to join a project with magical realism that includes people of color. “We haven’t in the history of film been able to exist in those spaces,” Thompson stated. “I just got so excited to get to make a film that’s weird, that’s cool, that’s talking about social issues through a whole new lens, and I want us as black and brown people to get to do that more.”

Co-stars Terry Crews, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick, and Jermaine Fowler were also in attendance to celebrate the New York premiere with notable guests such as Chris Rock, Ilana Glazer, and Phoebe Robinson.

“Sorry to Bother You” bows in select theaters July 6, and opens nationwide July 13.

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