Emergency taps into that innate feeling many Black Americans have about getting involved with certain people who automatically lead to suspicion and the police.
|Screenplay By||K.D. Davlia|
|Where To Watch||Film Festival (Sundance Film Festival)
Limited Theatrical Release (May 20th)
Prime Video (May 27th)
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Drama, Young Adult|
|Content Rating||Not Rated|
|Kunel||Donald Elise Watkins|
It’s senior year for Carlos, Sean, and Kunel, and all Sean wanted to do, with just Kunel, was to have a legendary tour of all the major parties on campus. However, with discovering a passed-out white girl, Emma, in their living room, so comes the question of what two dark-skinned Black men, and a Latino, should do, considering all the perceptions that could come with taking this white girl anywhere. Never mind calling 911.
Cast & Character Guide
Please Note: This is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.
A mechanical aerospace engineering major, Carlos is an indisputable nerd. One who likes playing RTS games in his spare time, carries around a fanny pack with granola snacks, and is nicknamed Winnie-The-Pooh due to something that happened freshman year.
The resident judge on whether or not you can keep your Black card; Sean sees Carlos, but especially Kunel, like a brother. So, with that in mind, he spends most of the movie trying to be his brother’s keeper, which Kunel makes hard.
On track to become a doctor focused on virology, Kunel came from a polar opposite household to Sean, with his parents being doctors, both in his life, and his upbringing being far more tame. Hence a lack of fear when it comes to police, or a situation where most Black people would be like, “Nope – not it!”
17, not even out of high school, Emma shows up, likely with alcohol poisoning, or something close to it, in Carlos, Sean, and Kunel’s living room. She is barely responsive, is in and out of consciousness, and is barely any help to figure out where she has come from, where to take her, and if she can sleep off whatever she did or if she needs a hospital.
Maddy is Emma’s older sister who freaks out and becomes real nasty to everyone while searching for her sister.
Other Noteworthy Information
- Reason(s) for Film Rating: Blood, drinking, cursing, racism
It’s Depiction of Colorism and Racism
At the heart of the film is Sean trying to get through to Kunel the danger they are in from helping Emma. She is barely conscious throughout the movie, and she is being driven around in a van with two dark-skinned Black men and a Latino. The implications vary, and you can see as Emma’s sister Maddy and Maddy’s friend track her, why that’s a problem.
First off, the assumption is she is kidnapped, potentially drugged, and something nefarious is going down. This is hilarious since you see people who make assumptions have “Black Lives Matter” signs on their lawn, yet they think the guys are dealing drugs. Then with Maddy, she is quick to note how she isn’t trying to sound racist, yet she is following suit with every negative thought one could gather.
But you know what the real kicker here is? The reminder that, while Carlos is a person of color, Mexican to be specific, he is not Black. So when it comes to how he is perceived, while not seen as innocent, he is treated differently. He doesn’t get accused of what Kunel and Sean do, and when things escalate, he isn’t the one Maddy, or others, feel is a threat to either Emma’s or their life.
It really is something to watch and helps you understand why Sean, throughout the film, has an attitude of dumping Emma’s body and cleaning their hands of whatever happens to her. Not because he wants to be that guy, but because it would be better to regret what happened to Emma than regret becoming a hashtag.
From a phone call, we know Kunel’s mom is Nigerian, but we’re not told whether he was born and raised in America or immigrated for school. All we know for sure is that Kunel’s Black experience and Sean’s are polar opposites. Sean is from what people like Maddy think is “The Hood,” and you can see Kunel, when meeting Sean’s family, definitely concurs with the observation as he tiptoes around Sean’s family and family friends.
This, to me, alongside Kunel’s desire to call the cops, shows his naivety. If not recognizing that Kunel operates on a sense of otherness. That, when it comes to Sean, he gets why he would fear the police since he drinks, smokes, and where he comes from. However, Kunel is seen as Black excellence, has a Carlton Banks persona, so what need does he have to fear the police or for them to fear him?
I’m not sure if that was the intention of the filmmakers but seeing an ADOS (American Descendant of Slaves) have their perspective challenged by a Black immigrant made for a culture clash I wasn’t expecting.
The Kind of Intensity That Could Bring You To Tears
As the night wears on, Sean’s patience and ability to try to get Kunel away from this time bomb of a situation wears thin. Especially as multiple warning shots are fired, and the situation is getting worse, not better. And eventually, it comes to a point where things get so intense that you’re left to wonder where this movie will go? For as you see the barrel of a gun pointed at one of the characters and all Sean has been warning us about seemingly about to happen, it hits you.
I’m talking about, it hits you in a way that feels like an abrupt shift. You go from thinking nothing will happen, and then like a car crash, you can see the film is still going on, but the inertia has you stuck in a moment where you don’t know what may happen next. And then, slowly but surely, you feel the weight of the situation and find yourself crying. Almost as if you know things can only end one way upon the impact of a cop getting involved. So, like a trauma response, you are already going through the motions without even having to hear a gun go off.
Talk about triggering.
While you get a heavy dose of drama and social commentary, Emergency is funny at times too. It’s just, the jokes are to lighten the mood but never take away from what is happening. And in that balancing act of presenting to you a real fear many Black Americans have, with a scenario that seems rare and unlikely, you are allowed to understand what it means to be paranoid just for being Black. Be it drawing attention to yourself due to a broken taillight, knowing certain neighborhoods, even if there are “Black Lives Matter” signs, doesn’t mean you are the kind of Black person whose life they think matters. Emergency explores both the mundane, everyday fears, alongside those that come from the specific scenario the characters go through with a nearly perfect balance. Hence the positive label and recommendation.
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