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David Knight - 30th Mar 2015

AG Rojas's ambitious and arguably controversial video for Run The Jewels' Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck), featuring Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine, addresses the controversy over American police brutality towards the African American community by imagining it as a one-on-one conflict between two individuals - the white cop and the black citizen.

It's beautifully crafted, with amazing cinematography by Michael Ragen. It's also a surprisingly ambiguous exercise, in which the personalities of the actors (Shea Whigham and Keith Stanfield) and the extreme physical demands of their roles - has an inevitable impact on what we're seeing. It's not quite a case of mutual hatred, and in fact, there is no 'bad guy' here. It may seem to run counter to the fierce polemic for which RTJ's Killer Mike and El-P (to say nothing of De la Rocha) have become renowned. But they say it gels with their views that it's the whole system, rather than rogue individuals, that is the problem.   

"This video represents the futile and exhausting existence of a purgatory-like law enforcement system," says Killer Mike "There is no neat solution at the end because there is no neat solution in the real world.  However, there is an opportunity for dialogue and to change the way communities are policed in this country.  Salutes to AG Rojas for his unique take on the subject matter and to Shea and Keith for giving us their all and bringing it to life."

AG ROJAS*:

"When Run The Jewels sent me this track, I knew we had the opportunity to create a film that means something. I felt a sense of responsibility to do just that. We had to exploit the lyrics and aggression and emotion of the track, and translate that into a film that would ignite a valuable and productive conversation about racially motivated violence in this country. It's provocative, and we all knew this, so we were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity.

"For me, it was important to write a story that didn’t paint a simplistic portrait of the characters of the Cop and Kid. They're not stereotypes. They're people - complex, real people and, as such, the power had to shift between them at certain points throughout the story. The film begins and it feels like they have been fighting for days, they’re exhausted, not a single punch is thrown, their violence is communicated through clumsy, raw emotion. They've already fought their ways past their judgements and learned hatred toward one another. Our goal was to highlight the futility of the violence, not celebrate it.

"I am really proud of where we ended up, and I am very thankful that our actors Shea Whigham and Keith Stanfield committed to these characters 100%. They breathed complex life into two people who are usually portrayed in simplistic ways - as archetypes. I can tell you it was an emotional shoot day. It is tough to re-create moments that are so fresh and prevalent in our world today. It affected all of us in deep ways.

"But I believe that it is important that the way we feel when we see these events in real life has an effect on us. That we resonate with what we know to be right and we don't numb ourselves out so those feelings can simply be swept away, we must confront them and take some action, however small, or we’ll be stuck in the same cycle of violence and hate."

(* From the Run The Jewels website)

Credits

DirectorAG Rojas
Production CompanyPark Pictures
ProducerPeter Vitale
Executive ProducerMary Ann Marino
Executive ProducerJackie Kelman Bisbee
Director of PhotographyMichael Ragen
Production designerChris Jones
WardrobeNatasha Newman-Thomas
EditorJustin Dial
ColouristGregory Reese
Associate ProducerLaurie Devine
Associate ProducerJamie Kohn Rabineau
1st ADMichael Dignum
SteadicamAri Robbins
GafferBobby Wotherspoon
GripRyan McGuire
LocationChris Gutierrez
CastKeith Stanfield
CastShea Whigham
Director's Rep (UK)Alexa Haywood at Free Agent UK
Director's Rep (US)Lark Creative

David Knight - 30th Mar 2015

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