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’The Harder They Fall’ celebrated for being the change Hollywood needs to see with its all-black cast

Producer Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z and director Jeymes Samuel at the Opening Night Gala for ’The Harder They Fall’ during the 65th BFI London Film Festival. Picture: Dave Benett

Producer Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z and director Jeymes Samuel at the Opening Night Gala for ’The Harder They Fall’ during the 65th BFI London Film Festival. Picture: Dave Benett

Published Oct 22, 2021


Of late, there has been plenty of hype around the Netflix Western, “The Harder They Fall”, which premieres on November 3.

Honestly, it is deserving of attention as well as praise.

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The big-budget film is directed by Jeymes Samuel (aka The Bullitts). He also shares the producer credits with Jay-Z, James Lassiter and Lawrence Bender. G Mac Brown wears the hat of executive producer.

So why is this film making so much noise ahead of its release?

Well, if you look at the film industry’s annals, especially with Western films such as “The Quick and the Dead”, “True Grit” and “News of the World”, there is a preferential pattern with the casting. More often than not, actors of colour are given token parts instead of mainstream roles.

And while Denzel Washington and Jamie Fox shifted mindsets as formidable leads in “The Magnificent Seven” and “Django Unchained”, respectively, “The Harder They Fall” has cast aside the problematic issues of the original mould of the genre with its prominent all-black leads: Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Jonathan Majors, LaKeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo, Edi Gathegi, Damon Wayans jr and Danielle Deadwyler.

The groundbreaking film centres on two outlaws: Nat Love (Majors) and Rufus Buck (Elba). Aside from watching his parents being killed by Rufus as a young boy, Nat was also branded with a cross on his forehead.

That seed of vengeance grew over the years and now that Rufus is out, thanks to a carefully orchestrated jailbreak by his gang, Nat is ready to make him pay for his sins of the past.

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Aside from its world premiere at the 65th BFI London Film Festival, all eyes were on the recent Los Angeles premiere, which was attended by the likes of Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Seal, Tiffany Haddish, Swizz Beatz and Taraji P Henson.

Jonathan Majors and Seal at the LA special screening. Picture: Rachel Murray/Netflix

Of course, the cast, directors and producers were on cloud nine on the night – and they had every right to be.

After all, diversity and inclusivity of women and people of colour have been hot potato issues in Hollywood for the longest time.

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It has resulted in A-listers boycotting prominent award ceremonies and several stars being vocal about bagging roles where they are typecast or playing second fiddle.

Then in 2018, “Black Panther” came along, and, apart from being celebrated for its black excellence across the globe, it ushered in much-needed change by presenting a black superhero, too.

Although Chadwick Boseman is no longer with us, his legacy as the eponymous hero will never be forgotten.

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Taraji P Henson at the LA screening. Picture: Rachel Murray/Netflix

Right now, fans are chomping at the bit for the 2022 sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, which, according to a recent article on Digital Spy, “will honour the legacy of Chadwick Boseman and won’t recast the role of T’Challa”.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall” carries forward that baton of change.

First, let’s talk about the highlights of the LA screening last Wednesday, where all eyes were on Beyoncé and her showstopper outfit.

Beyoncé wearing Alexander Vauthier for the LA screening. Picture: Instagram

She turned heads in a plunging black and emerald-green gown designed by Alexander Vauthier, which she paired with green monochrome Jimmy Choo heels.

She accessorised with a diamond and emerald necklace with matching earrings and a mirrored clutch bag.

Interestingly, she also caused a stir on the red carpet at the London Film Festival, where she wore a bespoke black strapless gown by Valdrin Sahiti.

Another moment that caught the world’s attention was Jay-Z’s reaction to former Destiny Child member and his wife’s BFF, Kelly Rowland, on the red carpet.

In the video clip that has since gone viral, the “99 Problems” rapper is seen being escorted by his bodyguards when he turns around and spots Rowland.

Elated, he gives her a huge smile and warm teddy bear hug and is heard saying, “Aw, you look so beautiful, I didn’t even recognise you.”

Meanwhile, Rowland was baffled by the attention it got.

In an Instagram post this weekend, the “Motivation” singer said: “Some things I’ll never understand. I see my big bro all the time but I guess you guys don’t see what we see.”

She added: “I am not of course paid to say anything about the movie, but this movie is so good, ‘The Harder They Fall’, and what’s so dope is it’s directed, written, created by a brilliant black man and produced by a brilliant black man, and it’s so exciting.”

Also at the premiere was South African visual artist Nelson Makamo, who is in the US for his solo exhibition, “Blue”, and cracked an invite to the screening, where he got to rub shoulders with Jay-Z.

This week, the Gotham Film & Media Institute confirmed that “The Harder They Fall” cast would be receiving the Ensemble Tribute at the 2021 Gotham Awards in New York City on November 29.

Even if “The Harder They Fall” gets mixed reviews when it releases, there’s no taking away the historical strides it has made in the genre. And it is also a firm reminder that when pleas for diversity and inclusivity fall on deaf ears, it is time to be the change that you want to see.