Director A.G. Rojas: “We were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity.”
By Zoe Camp
Photo by Dinesh Bangara
Run the Jewels, aka Killer Mike and El-P, have released the video for “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”, their Run the Jewels 2 highlight featuring Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha. Directed by A.G. Rojas, the clip features a battle between two exhausted men: a cop and an unarmed black man. The cop is played by Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”, “Agent Carter”) and the kid by Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12, Snoop Dogg in the upcoming N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton). Stanfield also portrayed civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was killed by Alabama statetroopers, in last year’s Selma. Watch it below.
When Run the Jewels sent me this, 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 way past their judgments 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.