Drake’s involvement with writer-director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s film Monsters and Men is paying off. A press release, issued Saturday (Sept, 8), announces that the Canadian rapper and Altitude Film Distribution have partnered “to jointly acquire” U.K. distribution rights for the drama.
Monsters and Men will be released in the U.K. and Ireland on Jan. 11, 2019, and Neon will release it in the U.S. this fall. It plays in theaters Sept. 28 in New York and Los Angeles.
Last year, Drake got involved with The Carter Effect, a documentary about NBA star and former Toronto Raptor Vince Carter. He then executive-produced Sam Levinson’s Degrassi-esque high school series, Euphoria, due in 2019 for HBO.
Monsters and Men centers around a police shooting of a black man that’s caught on video and the effect it has on the parties involved, including witnesses, the community and family. It’s about the conflict and the conflicted, police brutality and intimidation, fear, anger, activism, blue code, power imbalance and consequences.
The cast includes John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kevin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan, Cara Buono and Jasmine Cephas Jones.
In a statement, Altitude chairman and co-CEO Will Clarke said, “The film is powerful, emotionally provocative and highly relevant and the combined resources of Drake and ourselves is a unique and potent combination to reach the largest audience in the U.K. and Ireland. We look forward to Monsters and Men being the first of many projects on which we work together.”
HanWay Films MD Gabrielle Stewart added that it’s “a time for bold films and engagement, and Monsters and Men very much stands out this year. We are thrilled to be working with Altitude and Drake to give Monsters and Men the platform it deserves in the U.K.”
And while there is no statement from Drake, his manager and business partner Adel “Future” Nur weighed in instead/ “Drake and I are incredibly proud of Monsters and Men and what we know it will accomplish,” he says. “We are also honored to work with remarkable first-time filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green on this important project that helps to continue the conversation around an important issue facing communities everywhere.”
Monsters and Men won the Sundance Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature, and just screened at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with one more screening to go on Sept. 14.
Drake’s name is not in the credits, nor is it listed on TIFF’s page about the film; it appears he came onboard after completion to offer his clout. Green called him the “newest member of the team” in a statement.
The Toronto-born rapper was supposed to speak onstage Thursday night (Sept. 6) at the top-tiered Canadian premiere costing about a $100 a ticket and leading into an opening night party throughout the TIFF Bell Lightbox building. He canceled last minute. The director wasn’t in attendance either, and the screening didn’t end up selling out.
Drake sent a short video message that screened before the film, apologizing for canceling just hours earlier. “Unfortunately I’m on tour right now,” he explained. His appearance for the screening was announced by TIFF two weeks ago.
He thanked Green, Neon and others involved with the film, as well as the merch company, whose T-shirts with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork Defacement — depicting the Death of Michael Stewart by police brutality — were handed out to audience members as they exited the theater. A startlingly long list of names of people killed by police officers covers the back of the garment.
“I’m just very excited and honored to be part of something that continues a conversation in this day in age,” Drake said in the video. “I think it’s an extremely important moment and an important movie. I hope you guys love it as much as I do.”
Green, who was in Jamaica filming his next project, sent a lengthy statement that was read before the screening.
“We tried something with this film,” he said. “We took some risks. We had a lot of fun. We were unconditional but tried out best to remain truthful. We really hope you enjoy it. If you do, help us share it with the world; if you don’t, that’s okay too. Let’s have an open dialogue about it — offline. In all seriousness, that’s what this film is about: conversation.
“This film was born out of a conversation with a cop friend of mine from Staten Island,” he continued. “We grew up together, played football together. I used to deliver pizza where Eric Garner was killed. That was my backyard. What started as a normal conversation between two friends ended in a pretty heated discussion. We saw two totally different things looking at that same viral video tape. In the end, what I realized was that although we disagreed, we were trying to understand each other. The conversation left the hairs on my skin standing up. I knew I had to do something about it. That very conversation stayed with me for months and that very same conversation is the reason for this film — perspective.”
He added that the objective of the film is to encourage viewers to “take a moment and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.” “The film was a challenge to myself to see what can I do as an individual, as a citizen,” he said. “We can’t stay idle. We must do something and this film is a step toward whatever that answer is.”
John David Washington (Ballers, The Book of Eli, Malcolm X) plays a cop struggling internally with what he believes and has experienced first-hand as a black man. At a Q&A after the screening, Washington said he has been pulled over by police.
“I deserved to be questioned,” he said, “so they’re doing their job — and I had an experience or two where I feel like it was unmerited. I feel like it was based off of the color of my skin and the color of my car and the color of the tinted windows, maybe the music I was playing. Interestingly, one time I got pulled over — and I don’t know if you all remember CDs [laughs] — I had a full mix CD and I remember I got pulled over and I switched the song to like a rock ‘n’ roll song, thinking that it might help. It’s kind of funny, right? I was a teenager. But it’s just interesting how just because of my fear and the unknown, and who I was or who I’m related to, I had the same fear as a man whose background isn’t the same as mine. So it was on my mind a lot.”