New Film ‘The Obituary of Tunde Johnson’ Tackles Police Brutality and LGBTQ Acceptance
In The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, the titular character (played by Steven Silver) is a gay, upper-middle-class Nigerian-American teen trapped in the time loop of his own murder at the hands of the police. First premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, Ali LeRoi’s film dives into themes of identity and experience, as well as social issues like racism, police brutality, LGBTQ acceptance and mental health. It’s a timely piece, written by Stanley Kalu as a student at the University of Southern California.
The trailer begins with the voice of a narrator: “On the night of May 28th, 2020, Tunde Johnson departed this life.”
It then features Tunde’s voice: “I’m Black and gay. And even those two hate each other.”
The trailer goes back and forth from the primary love triangle of the film — featuring Tunde, Tunde’s best friend (played by Nicola Peltz) and the boyfriend (played by Spencer Neville) — and the police brutality story. It’s clear that Tunde, like so many of the Black men who have been killed at the hands of the police, has done nothing to warrant his murder. The trailer shows his father as well, saying, “You comply and you stay silent. Your life is more important than your pride.” It becomes clear that even when you do everything “right,” your so-called guilt is predetermined by the color of your skin.
Because the film tackles a number of difficult issues, it’s often highly intense. A film review published by The Hollywood Reporter: “But maybe overwhelming the viewer is the point. It becomes increasingly jarring each time Tunde’s next death inevitably approaches. In the blink of an eye, he goes from being an everyday teenager who smokes joints, bumps hip-hop in the car and has dating troubles to somehow being an absolute threat in the eyes of the police officers that shoot him dead.”
The switch between high school drama and systematic oppression is jolting. It’s also a reality for many young people across this country.
The Obituary of Tunde Johnson won the Audience Award for the best Debut Narrative Feature at Outfest, Los Angeles’ famous LGBTQ film festival. It’s available to stream now on Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime.
Will you be streaming The Obituary of Tunde Johnson this week?