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Julie Dash: ‘Queen & Slim’ Director Melina Matsoukas Knows How to Evoke ‘the Danger of Our Times’

Julie Dash on Melina Matsoukas' 'Queen

Read more from Variety’s Directors on Directors, in which filmmakers praise their favorite movies of the year, here

Queen & Slim,” directed by Melina Matsoukas, scripted by Lena Waithe, is one of the most impressive debut features of the year. Matsoukas has crafted a film that’s not only something new; it’s undeniably something more — an unexpected baptism, through cinematic displays of images that haunt us long after she fades to black.

Matsoukas is known for directing viral videos that provoke and redefine us, like “Formation” for Beyoncé, “We Found Love” for Rihanna and “Losing You” for Solange Knowles. Like her multi-award-winning music videos, “Queen & Slim” never disappoints. A rushing tide of fresh possibilities come into sharper focus with Melina’s vision and her unapologetically defiant voice.

Matsoukas knows how to evoke the spirit of our times, and more importantly, the danger of our times, with unforgettable performances by “Get Out’s” Daniel Kaluuya, as “Slim,” and the enigmatic Jodie Turner-Smith as “Queen.” Tat Radcliffe’s exquisite cinematography complements Melina’s impressive storytelling, visual rhetoric that stuns and excites. We follow the story of a mismatched couple on an awkward first date that leads to tragedy and misadventure when a bad cop stops them for a minor traffic infraction. Death comes staccato on a cold dark night in middle America and follows Queen and Slim to an impossible face-off in the torpid but less than a tranquil Florida Keys. More than a genre road-picture, Melina Matsoukas paints a picture of a resistance march, where black bodies are forced to negotiate life and death while navigating the highways and backroads of America.

Julie Dash directed “Daughters of the Dust,” the first full-length feature by an African-American woman. Her other directorial works include “The Rosa Parks Story,” “Brothers of the Borderland” and the series “Queen Sugar.”