Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Surrealistic: The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
We can’t say enough good about our favorite film from the Toronto Film Festival 2019. The Obituary of Tunde Johnson stars 13 Reasons Why’s Steven Silver as Tunde Johnson, the closeted gay son of African immigrants. Though forces unknown, Tunde relives the day of his own death over and over, in a similar vein to Groundhog Day. Worse, Tunde’s death seems unavoidable, no matter what choices he makes.
Silver delivers a fantastic, mature performance in the lead role, while supporting cast Spencer Neville (as Tunde’s closeted boyfriend Soren) and Nicola Peltz (as Soren’s girlfriend Marley) give strong supporting turns as well. Director Ali LeRoi directs with confident style, constructing the film more like a rhyming poem than a traditional narrative. The result has a surreal lyricism to it seldom seen in the movies. For all the excellent work of LeRoi and his cast, the real standout here is screenwriter Stanley Kalu, who penned the semi-autobiographical story. Tunde marks Kalu’s cinematic debut, in which he proves himself a compelling and provocative writer. While this film may be his first, we pray it will not be his last.
Though The Obituary of Tunde Johnson debuted in 2019, it plays even more relevant today when the killing of unarmed African-American men has taken a front seat in our cultural discourse. The movie also makes subtle observations about masculinity, sexuality, and coming out; though LGBTQ people enjoy more visibility than ever before, that doesn’t mean coming out and joining the community has gotten any easier. Provocative, prophetic and unique, we can’t recommend the film enough.
Streams on Amazon, Hulu, YouTube & VUDU.