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#TIFF19 Review: The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (Discovery)

September 14, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

On the night that he finally comes out to his parents, high schooler Tunde Johnson (Steven Silver) is driving to his boyfriend Soren’s (Spencer Neville) birthday party, when he is shot and killed by police during a traffic stop. Then he wakes up in his own bed, and starts to relive the whole day over again, right through to his tragic final moments. As Tunde is sent hurtling again and again towards his fate, he has to keep navigating the confusing circumstances that preceded it, including Soren’s insistence on keeping their relationship a secret, hiding his sexuality by going out with Tunde’s best friend Marley (Nicola Peltz).

Directed by Ali LeRoi, who is probably best known as the co-creator of the TV series Everybody Hates Chris, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is an impressive debut film that uses its time loop premise, and some ingenious editing, to grapple with timely themes of racism, homophobia and police brutality, in ways both challenging and provocative. Working from a screenplay by Stanley Kalu, which he wrote when he was just 19-years-old, some of the film’s stylistic choices are quite bold and daring, including one very well edited sequence in particular that uses match cuts and mirroring images to draw direct parallels between a moment of intimacy and a moment of violence. There are a couple of more clichéd moments along the way, but its scenes like these when the film really grabs hold of us, using its clever narrative conceit to force us to confront some pretty heavy stuff.

Steven Silver in The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 8th – 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Tuesday, September 10th – 4:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, September 14th – 9:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

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