SXSW 2023: I’m A Virgo – The Return of Boots Riley

We’re on the orders of a strict embargo. We cannot say what specific events, exactly, make the return of Boots Riley to filmmaking an essential event. We can maybe say that this has happened. From the four episode half-season we have been granted, we can preview our review and say there is for sure half a sensational show here, without any real specifics and concrete detail about why that is definitively true.

What’s obvious to us is that Boots Riley is a premier talent. Since his days from the very-left-leaning rap act The Coup — incredible discography full of funky West Coast hip-hop sounds from the ‘90s — his work is established in what we would like to flatter ourselves to be, something like our collective idealism for politics. That is, very far left, progressive on all issues to the degree that it may burn some bridges, and outspoken in his praxis in a way the best artists can be.

Boots’ remarkable Sorry to Bother You (2018) established his activism as a visual language. It is, a few of us at The Twin Geeks believe, one of the best works of the last decade. Others are divided, which is the singular beauty his work holds among a modern type of filmography that is so corporately inoffensive, that it is unfathomably offensive. In the face of those present expectations, Riley is a beautiful extremist making extreme art as a statement.

So follows I’m A Virgo. This time, you can read it a bit more directly, it could appeal to anyone, but like good message films and television, all the bigger statements are embedded underneath that attractive veneer.

One message the film has, is a supersized metaphor for the outsider. Maybe to be Black is to feel as everyone can see your difference. That living as a man of color means that you are under a constant scrutiny that comes as harshly as it does immediately. The metaphor is beautiful, utilizing an awkward outsized character to say this, and many other things, some of which we simply aren’t allowed enough details to back up in this early text.

From these first slices, what we can ascertain from the show, is that it is a different kind of television. Television designed from the perspective of a different social reality about who gets to design what television characters look like, who they are, and how they are presented to the audience. Underneath it all, is a stunning and unique coming-of-age approach that is sure to have its check cashed in the remaining half series.

It’s a long wait until the series arrives in the Summer. But believe us now, it’s worth it, and Boots Riley developing for film and television, is a political necessity for the coy, formally outdated product that fills so many of our channels. Boots Riley is living in a political future and bringing us with him.

Score reserved for full series release.

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