Whenever I get an opportunity to humanise black women, I take it: Hollywood star Janelle Monae

·3-min read

New Delhi, Feb 19 (PTI) Hollywood singer-actor Janelle Monae says it has always been important for her to tell stories that humanise black women on the screen, be it 'Moonlight', 'Hidden Figures' or her latest horror film 'Antebellum'.

The 2020 film, which started streaming in India on Lionsgate Play from Friday, revolves around a successful author Veronica, who finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality, and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late.

Monae said she wants to give voice to women of colour through her cinema.

'Whenever I get an opportunity to humanise black women on screen, I take it. I think there's so much dehumanisation of black women in real life, that we deserve to be seen as sisters, as lovers, as friends and as human beings. So that's always been important to me. (That's why) I took on this role and some of the most I've taken on in the past,' she told PTI in a Zoom interview from Los Angeles.

Horror has emerged as an important tool for writer-directors to explore racism, most prominently seen in Jordan Peele's 'Get Out'.

Directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, this film also uses the horror genre to tell the story of slavery in America.

Monae, 35, said the film, set in antebellum South, is a depiction of reality. 'When you think about horror, there's nothing more horrific than what happened to black people,' she said.

'The fact that we were stolen and forced to live in America, the fact that they stole doctors, they stole lawyers, they stole writers, they stole artists, it's horrific in every sense of the word horror. That is one of the most horrific acts that has happened in history. And it's still happening today, in many different ways and in many different forms.' The movie is about reclaiming the narrative, the actor-singer said quoting American politician Maxine Water's famous line 'reclaiming my time' during a Congressional hearing in 2017.

By centering the story around the voice of a black woman, who is a thought leader and a pillar in her community, the film tries to look 'at the past, the present and what could potentially be our future', she said.

'I think that there's no way for us to talk about this film and even what we're experiencing during these times without talking about chattel slavery, and the connection to racist policies that we are all experiencing right now, all meaning, black and brown and marginalised voices,' she said.

Monae said as a free person, she keeps reminding herself of the fight that her ancestors fought.

'I am their wildest dreams,' she said.

The movie was shot on the Evergreen Plantation in Edgard near New Orleans, which was also the location for Quentin Tarantino's film 'Django Unchained'.

This was, Monae said, their way of honouring the people who came before them and lived this horror without any choice.

'And I felt their presence, guiding me every step... I felt them leading me, guiding me and uplifting me and saying, 'Tell our story, tell our story.'' The film also stars Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersy Clemons, Tongayi Chrisa and Lily Cowles. PTI BK RB SHD BK BK