‘The Inspection’ shows the dangers facing a young gay African-American man in a military environment

American communities that have been historically marginalized have normally received the same treatment from Hollywood, so it’s important to have a film like “The Inspection,” which hits theaters nationwide this Thursday and recreates in a particularly sensitive way an experience as personal as it is important.

In the film, Elegance Bratton, who already had a long experience as a photographer and documentary filmmaker, but who is making her feature film debut here as a director and screenwriter, looks back on the recent past (more precisely, on the immediate post- September 11) in order to show through autofiction what happened to him as a young gay African-American who decided to join the ‘marines’ after being rejected by his own mother because of his sexual identity and becoming be found on the street.

Using an alter ego named Ellis French, Bratton brings to cinematic life the many challenges he faced during grueling military training while trying to hide his true sexuality from a group of people who were, in many cases, , openly homophobic, and which included a particularly ruthless. superior.

To portray Ellis, the filmmaker enlisted Jeremy Pope, one of the most visible and famous young actors in the black and LGBTQ community in the United States. In addition to playing soul artist Jackie Wilson on ‘One Night in Miami’, Pope has appeared on TV shows such as ‘Pose’ and ‘Hollywood’ and is a Broadway heartthrob, where he has won acclaim for his roles in works such as “Choir Boy” and “Ain’t Too Proud”.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times en Español, Bratton and Pope talk about the importance of a story like this in the times we live in, the challenges of telling a similar story, how which they hope to have an impact on the public with what they tell and other aspects of interest related to the military universe that they portray.

Elegance, why did you decide it was the right time to tell this very personal story, and why did you choose Jeremy to tell it?

Bratton: It had to be Jeremy, and that was clear from the start. I definitely wanted an openly queer black actor in the role, but more importantly a talented genius like him. When I was a kid, I had nothing like this movie, and I knew it was important to do something like this with all the issues gay kids still face, including homelessness and suicide. We needed a hero like us who could provide tangible proof that things really can get better because the tools to make them better lie within you.

I tell the story now because I was “homeless” for almost ten years, from the age of 16 to 25. My mother kicked me out of the house because I was gay; He told me that I was worthless, and I believed him, until I arrived at the ‘Marines’ camp and realized that my value lay in my ability to protect the person to my left and the person on my left to be on my right.

It was a transformative and powerful discovery, and it seems to me that in the times we live in, where the United States is so polarized – between right and left, black and white, male and female – that it is more appropriate to make known this world in which our values ​​are determined solely by our ability to protect and serve each other.

How important was it for you, Jeremy, to play this character who is obviously based on elegance, but also has to do with issues of race and sexuality? I guess it was difficult, because as an actor you had to explore your own emotions and experiences, and this film is very intense on that side.

First of all, this job was a gift, and I will explain what I mean by that, because it was a service job. I read the script and was so moved by the story that I was able to connect with Elegance through the Zoom session we had. We talked about what it means to be an artist, what it means to be black and queer in this world, and our mission as individuals, and we agreed on almost everything.

I had the impression that by telling the truth like this, Elegance was putting itself in the front line, it was saying “I’m going first”; and by doing something like that, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position, because when you reveal something about yourself, you can’t take it back. I needed to be the vehicle to tell this story, but in doing so, I was also able to heal myself, because as a black queer individual that I am, I had to confront institutions and I had to hide and adapt parts of myself for security reasons.

We talked about the importance of making this film and ultimately what a gift it would be for us to make it, how liberating it would be. The declaration of principles was knowing and believing that on the other side there was someone for whom the film was going to become an instrument, a resource, something tangible where to see that there is a way out , that there are communities in which you can be accepted for who you are; and if that means you have to leave relationships that don’t serve you, that’s what you have to do.

I think this movie is about Ellis French finding a way to accept and love himself, which he eventually found when he joined the Marines. With all of this, I was able to do my own homework and hopefully provide Elegance with moments of healing and growth. And we did it together, hand in hand.

The director on set.

(Josiah Rundles)

Elegance, as you already mentioned, there’s been a lot of racial disagreement in this country lately, and while the movie deals with that as well, homophobia seems to be stronger than racism. Was it like that for you? Or was it more of a combination?

I served in the Marines back in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era, and here’s my story about a black gay man who joined the Marines and how I grew up. I was not allowed to participate much in other children’s activities when I was a child. When it came to picking someone for a team, they didn’t pick me; When something was wrong at home, my mother’s friends didn’t want to settle the problem with me, because they felt uncomfortable with me. When I joined the Marines, I found a team that couldn’t dump me, and it was sometimes very confusing, because in such a masculine environment, there are a lot of overlaps with my experience as a homosexual. . But this film is for anyone who has felt rejected, for anyone who has felt helpless and unappreciated. I promise you that when this is over, you’ll feel powerful.

The film has Raúl Castillo as a rather tolerant Latino. But the relationship between Latin Americans and American “Marines” is complicated. In the production notes you say this is a pro-troop film, not a pro-military film, and I read that when you served you were working as a photographer, not as a photographer. When you integrated, you did it because you lived on the street. What is your current relationship with the military?

I am not qualified to discuss US foreign policy. However, when I joined the ‘Marines’, as you admit, I was in dire straits. There is nothing more demoralizing than being homeless in this country. In my mind, with all that Ellis French went through on the streets, this camp is not for him an environment for political discussion.

Every man here is in dire straits, and that’s why we’re focusing on the troops. I think it’s this human connection within an institution that makes an institution change. Using this character as an example of what it means to feel good about yourself, each of the people around her find their own way. [de ser]for the truth is that none of us as men know how to be a man.

We are under pressure from an ideology much bigger than ourselves. But when we look at each other face to face, this ideology collapses; And that’s what this movie is about.

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