Rashid Johnson's Film Native Son Debuts April 6

Rashid Johnson directs Ashton Sanders and Nick Robinson on set. Thomas Hank Willis/HBO
Rashid Johnson (SAIC 2003–04, HON 2018) directs Ashton Sanders and Nick Robinson on set. Photo courtesy of Thomas Hank Willis/HBO via NPR

Rashid Johnson's (SAIC 2003–04, HON 2018) first film, Native Son, an adaptation of Richard Wright's famous novel, debuts on HBO on Saturday, April 6 reports NPR's Morning Edition. Adapting the 1940 novel to post-1977 Chicago, the film was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. At the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Johnson explained why he thinks Wright's book is still relevant. "His story Native Son—however divisive—is an incredibly complicated telling of how we're to examine some aspects of the black psyche," Johnson said to NPR's Morning Edition. In the interview with NPR, Johnson describes moments in the film that contain parts of his artistic practice. "The idea of escape has been thematically a big part of my practice," he says. "And so it also lives in this film, as far as how Bigger is negotiating with what he's done. And the idea of running and escape I think are also strong themes that live in this film and in my work simultaneously," he says. His seven-year-old son, Julius, also makes a cameo in the film. Both Vulture and Hyperallergic reported on HBO's acquirement of the film and its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Hyperallergic also featured an interview with the film's production designer, Akin McKenzie, whose design the publication refers to as " a complete aesthetic reimagining of Wright’s 20th-century source material." In the interview, McKenzie notes that Johnson's painting Untitled Anxious Men was used in a scene where the film's protagonist is being interviewed. Read the full interview here.