Black Cop’s not a warn­ing

Cory Bowles’ lo­cally made fea­ture film delves deep into racism.


“So many peo­ple, even when they’re so up­set about the idea of what this movie’s about, they don’t want to talk about it any­more. Or they’re mad, or they’re just so threat­ened. What do you want me to do? We’ve been shuck­ing and jiv­ing so long,” says Cory Bowles, the writer and direc­tor of Black

Cop. “They want the buddy com­edy, they want the funny shit, but the sec­ond you put out a movie like Moon­light or a movie like Hid

den Fig­ures, the first thing they say is, ‘Well what about the other astro­nauts?’ They’ve had those movies. It’s called Every Astro­naut

Movie on the Planet. Why does it have to be about race? Be­cause the story’s about that.”

The story of Black Cop— the epony­mous char­ac­ter is por­trayed by Ron­nie Rowe Jr., a mag­netic ac­tor Bowles met at the Cana­dian Film Cen­tre—is un­ques­tion­ably about race. Fed up with his col­leagues’ abuse of power and of be­ing con­sid­ered a traitor by his own com­mu­nity, when he’s street-checked by a white of­fi­cers, it sends him on a vi­o­lent spree. He beats up a doc­tor in an af­flu­ent neigh­bour­hood, ties up a young cou­ple, ha­rasses a stu­dent and kicks a dad out of a park with­out any provo­ca­tion or just cause—re-en­act­ing the de­hu­man­iz­ing sit­u­a­tions faced con­stantly by his com­mu­nity.

Bowles is 44 and works in nearly as many artis­tic dis­ci­plines—he’s a mu­si­cian, dancer, ac­tor, writer and direc­tor. On April 15, 2015, af­ter the tax credit was slashed, he de­liv­ered a speech of pure fire at the Save Nova Sco­tia Film rally out­side Prov­ince House, declar­ing re­peat­edly, “We are cul­ture.” (That’s where he met the young poet An­dre Fen­ton, who closes the movie with a sim­i­larly rous­ing rally piece.) To say he’s pas­sion­ate about com­mu­nity is to un­der­state it.

“I’m on the Screen Nova Sco­tia board lit­er­ally in or­der to make sure that we pro­vide ac­ces­si­bil­ity to a dif­fer­ent group of film­maker that’s not go­ing to get no­ticed by our main­stream in­dus­try,” he says over break­fast on Labour Day. “No mat­ter what, we’re al­ways in­su­lar.”

(When he says “we” he means the film­mak­ers like him­self who have one foot in the sys­tem and one out, who hap­pily hype each other at every op­por­tu­nity—Bowles loves Ash­ley McKen­zie, Heather Young, Nancy Urich and Seth A. Smith.) “Af­ter ev­ery­thing that hap­pened, if we’re gonna sur­vive we have to push each other. And the idea of ‘I’m great’ and the idea of ‘Thanks ev­ery­one for mak­ing jobs’—that’s just dead,” he says. “It’s not even au­teurism is dead. Your au­teurism can only hap­pen if there’s a group of peo­ple do­ing it with you.”

Black Cop— with a mostly ex­te­rior Hal­i­fax shoot­ing sched­ule across 12 days in Novem­ber (“we lost light every day at 4:30”)—looks beau­ti­ful and moves ki­net­i­cally, as one would ex­pect from a pro­fes­sional chore­og­ra­pher, thanks to Jeff Wheaton’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy. The movie’s moral cen­tre, on the other hand, darts around all the way to its am­bigu­ous end­ing, which is how Bowles wanted it.

“Satires are warn­ing. When I was first mak­ing this, it wasn’t a warn­ing,” he says. “It was ‘One of th­ese days, shit’s gonna go down, and it’s gonna be crazy.’”

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