Janelle Monáe stepped onto the black carpet at the premiere of “Antebellum” on Monday night in Los Angeles in an Elie Saab gown, XIV Karats jewels, Christian Louboutin heels, a clutch from Carolina Santo Domingo and a custom-made N95 face mask by Aliona Kononova.
“It’s so weird, but you know what? I’m rolling with it,” Monáe, who stars in the horror-thriller as a successful author who finds herself seemingly transported back in time to the Civil War as a slave, told Variety. “Safety first, but I also just really needed a reason to get dressed up. I feel like I’m the most overdressed person but that’s because I haven’t been out in so long.”
Weird because, unlike any of Monáe’s previous premieres, this one took place at a drive-in on top of the Grove’s parking structure. Guests were invited to take photo ops from inside their cars in front of the movie’s poster. Upon check-in, staff handed out bags with an “Antebellum” face masks and hand sanitizer. Another stop before being guided to a parking spot included a snack box, featuring goodies from Major’s Project Pop, Just Water, Chick In Jones, Zac’s Sweet Shop, Partake and Pipcorn. The event was produced by CH Cre8tive.
Celebrations aside, Monáe said the film carries a powerful message. “It reminds us that the past is not the past,” she said. “The past is not even dead and I think the film is very timely and does a great job, an exceptional job of linking and connecting the dots of the past, the present and what could be our future.”
She continued, “I’m very honored to stand here and represent for Black women who have been dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism for centuries.”
On stage during a pre-screening Q&A, Monáe said her goal is to tell the “truth” about Black lives.
“There’s erasure going on. There’s whitewashing going on,” she said. “The 1619 Project they’re trying not to put it in our schools…We have to remind people that when we’re screaming, ‘Defund the police! Abolish the police,’ why are we doing that? Because in the Civil War, one of the earliest institutions of policing was the slave patrol. The police were built out of terrorizing Black people — not protecting and serving, but to capture us when we ran away, to stop us when we tried to revolt. And they didn’t just take our ancestors — they took our ancestors who had dreams.”
“Antebellum” comes from first-time co-writers and directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. The two begin pre-production on their second film “Rapture” next month.
“We deal with the weaponization of religion. We deal with climate change,” Bush told Variety. “It’s going to turn the world upside down because it need to be. We’re in the middle of a climate crisis that is going to disrupt all of our lives for generations if we don’t’ do something immediately.”
Bush and Renz said they are dedicated to making films that are steeped in social activism.
“We’re not only a writer and director duo and partners in creativity and art, but we’re life partners,” Bush said. “As gay folk, queer people who are doing this work, we understand that our rights as Black and LGBTQ people can be taken away at a moment’s notice. Unless we remain incredibly vigilant and guard the narrative, which is the truth, we are vulnerable to an erosion to the rights that we have so earned with blood, sweat and tears.”
“Antebellum” is available on premium video-on-demand services on Sept. 18.