Jay-Z on the importance of representation in western about black cowboys

·2-min read

Rapper Jay-Z has said he wanted to “see us represented” in a western with his new film about black cowboys.

The music superstar, real name Shawn Carter, serves as producer on The Harder They Fall, which tells a fictional story based on real-life figures from American history.

They include outlaw Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba, Treacherous Trudy Smith, played by Regina King, Stagecoach Mary, played by Zazie Beetz, and Nat Love, depicted by Jonathan Majors.

Arriving at the world premiere at the Royal Festival Hall on the opening night of the BFI London Film Festival, Carter said: “Just to see us represented, you know, with a lot of films we didn’t see ourselves in westerns, as if we didn’t exist.

“It is almost odd, people think that it’s like a caricature, that they are playing roles, but they’re not playing roles.

“These names like Stagecoach Mary, all the actors in this, they really existed in this time, so just see us represented and see that we have voices.

The Harder They Fall world premiere – BFI London Film Festival 2021
Jay-Z arrives for The Harder They Fall world premiere (Ian West/PA)

“There were so many towns that people didn’t know about, so to bring interesting stories to the big screen, and also educate, any time you can do that is just a blessing.”

Elba says he hopes to draw attention to the real historical figures who inspired the movie.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s really interesting that these characters really existed one time. No-one ever knows about them.

“Any western fan would be like ‘Really? I never heard of Rufus Buck’ but he was a real guy so it’s very special.”

The Harder They Fall world premiere – BFI London Film Festival 2021
Idris Elba arriving at the premiere (Ian West/PA)

His co-star Jonathan Majors said: “It’s righting wrongs and it’s also uncovering a little bit more of what the truth is.

“Women, Mexicans, Asians, I’m going to miss a group, but everybody had a hand in the building of the west so they belong in a western so it’s a home for everybody.

“It’s not just a step forward, it’s a leap forward.”

The Harder They Fall world premiere – BFI London Film Festival 2021
Jonathan Majors (Ian West/PA)

Director Jeymes Samuel said black people have been “erased” from the western genre throughout history, adding: “It’s really important, because if you take a piece of history away, it’s a domino effect, it affects all history.

“It’s like you can have the best car in the world but remove one wheel, now you destroyed the whole car.

“There’s so much scope to these stories, I don’t know why they weren’t being made.”

– The BFI London Film Festival runs until October 17. The Harder They Fall is released in select cinemas on October 22, and on Netflix from November 3.

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