Daring Satire? Or Comic Relief during not-so-funny times?
It seems pretty reliable that Taika Waititi’s Nazi-themed “Jojo Rabbit” will go down as the most daring satire to come out in 2019. With relatively heavy marketing and a recognizable name attached to it, it is also likely that “Jojo Rabbit” will draw in a large audience and become quite popular. After all, the movie has already earned a lot of buzz due to its success at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month.
However, the film market is happily large enough to accommodate more than just one socially telling film per year, and because of that, there are more movies than just “Jojo Rabbit” coming out that attempt to provide social-commentary through humor.
One of these movies is “The Day Shall Come” from “Four Lions” director and writer Christopher Morris, starring the familiar Anna Kendrick and the virtually unknown Marchánt Davis. Shot in the Dominican Republic over the past couple years, this satirical film was kept under the radar through most of its production, but it had its premiere at the South By Southwest film festival earlier this year, and is now getting a wide release under IFC Films’ distribution.
“The Day Shall Come” is a hard film to summarize. Like Boots Riley’s “Sorry To Bother You” or Joe Talbot’s “The Last Black Man In San Francisco,” the movie communicates messages about many systemic issues in our society by using a wacky, borderline surreal narrative.
Marchánt Davis plays Moses, the poor black religious leader of an Israelite commune in south Florida. His eccentric and radical teachings eventually get attention from the FBI, who, instead of properly investigating or trying Moses for whatever crimes he may have committed, devise a plan to prey on his lack of privilege and secretly get him involved in actual crime. Under this plan, the bureau can justify bringing Moses down.
Little known flick tries to break through with humor
Anna Kendrick plays the young FBI agent that the bureau puts in control of this project. While Kendrick’s character is somewhat a voice of reason within the bureau, she is but a rookie, and thus is subject to the outrageous demands of her superior agents, a bunch of old white men that the film makes out to be oafish and incompetent.
So far, there have not been many ads for “The Day Shall Come.” Unfortunately, that may translate to not many people going to see it. However, the little amount of marketing that has gone around for the film sells it as, “a weaponized comedy about homeland security” that is “based on a hundred true stories.”
Going off of these taglines, “The Day Shall Come” evidently hits a number of timely subjects. No, Davis’ Moses is not a real person and the story of the FBI deceiving an Israelite commune in Miami is nothing but fiction. Nevertheless, the narrative is true in the sense that people in power actually do carry out some pretty outrageous acts in order to maintain control. In that sense, one may assume that movie may dabbles too far into the realm of ungrounded conspiracy theories, but rest assured, it does so only as a conscious allegorical hyperbole, a narrative technique meant to be taken symbolically and not literally.
Likewise, by calling the film “weaponized” and directly pointing out that the comedy comes at the expense of national security, it is clear that “The Day Shall Come” is an intentional protest movie. The film is rife with jabs against government officials and it is not subtle in the political message it is trying to send regarding the dangers of certain entities holding too much authority.
This straightforwardness does not take away from the movie’s overall complexity, though. After all, Moses and his commune come off just as crazy as the FBI does in the film. Therefore, despite the explicit satire, the final message remains ambiguous. Perhaps Morris is trying to champion the idea of giving power to the people, while also recognizing the complicatedness that comes with preserving some kind of order in a place as vastly populated and diverse as the United States.
So far, the movie has received mixed reactions from critics and audiences. Most everyone agrees that the movie is hilarious, but some may find it too overt or experimental. Overall, this is not actually too surprising. “The Day Shall Come” seems like a movie that was made for ambivalent reception, for it is not really meant to please everyone—it is meant to humor and inspire, and perhaps even teach the audience something between the lines and behind the laughs.
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