American Fiction (2024)
Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is a Black professor and novelist, frustrated by the fact that his books receive academic praise but very little success in terms of copies sold. After his latest manuscript gets rejected by his publisher for not being “Black enough,” and an experience at a symposium indicates that what the market wants is even more offensive Black stereotypes, he turns his exasperation into a plan of action: rather than letting the establishment continue to profit from Black entertainment that relies on tired and hateful tropes, he’s going to prove his point by using a pen name to write an outlandish, stereotyped book of his own, expecting its absurd extremity to be laughed out of the room. But the surprise success of a novel he thought was a vicious joke turns himself into the punchline, and he finds himself propelled into the heart of the hypocrisy and madness he claims to disdain.
Based on the novel Erasure by Percival Everett and the first feature film from writer/director Cord Jefferson (whose writing credits include The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, The Good Place and the HBO limited series Watchmen), American Fiction rapidly ascended from darling of the festival circuit to five Academy Award nominations — including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s a bristling (but gentle and funny) look at the very real trap Black artists can find themselves in, when they underestimate the appetite of the mass-market audience for stories of Black pain, trauma and indignity. Please join Tampa Theatre for one of the most powerfully felt and wisely composed stories of the year.