The first trailer for Paramount’s “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” explores the tragic story of singer Billie Holiday, the racial inequalities of 1940s America and her encounters with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
The jazz singer, portrayed by Andra Day, came under fire by the agency after performing the song “Strange Fruit,” which condemns the U.S. history of lynching Black people. The film, directed by Lee Daniels and written by Suzan-Lori Parks, is inspired by Johann Hari’s book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.”
The movie focuses on Holiday’s dealings with federal agents, who allegedly began to target her due to her alcohol and drug abuse. Their behavior, however, was based more on her political sway with “Strange Fruit” than her actual struggles, according to NPR. An FBI memo even acknowledged that the Federal Bureau of Narcotics hoped to discredit people like her through their use of narcotics.
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” also highlights aspects of her complex relationship with Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), the Black agent tasked with tracking her movements. She grew to trust him, despite his adherence to the government’s war on drugs.
The film also stars Garrett Hedlund, Natasha Lyonne, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Miss Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Evan Ross, Tyler James Williams, Tone Bell and Erik LaRay Harvey.
Day’s transformation into Holiday is already generating Oscars buzz, and it could propel the film into the best actress conversation.
Watch the trailer for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” below.