In the science fiction thriller, “Sleight,” film director J.D. Dillard uniquely connects the worlds of technology, magic and drug dealing on the big screen.
Actor Jacob Latimore stars as Bo, a talented street magician who is forced to take care of his baby sister at a young age after the death of their parents. To financially provide for his younger sister, Tina, the talented magician enters the world of drug dealing — mentored by a dealer played by Dulé Hill. However, the deeper Bo explores this world, the more dangerous his life becomes.
The magician’s illegal profession ultimately leads to the kidnapping of his only sibling. To rescue Tina from her kidnappers Bo becomes one with technology by connecting a piece of metal to his arm that grants him the ability to manipulate metal.
“The film has so many different elements and so many different colors. It touches on magic, it touches on family and a little bit of romance. I think as an actor those things excite you and you want to be a part of those types of scripts because they’re different. As an actor you want to take risk,” Latimore told NBCBLK.
“Sleight” premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was brought to you by Blumhouse, the same producers as blockbuster hit, “Get Out.”
Dillard and his creative partner Alex Theurer, both of them passionate about creating science fiction movies, wrote this film. However, Dillard explained that they also love exploring other film genres. The movie is Dillard’s first feature film. When creating "Sleight" the young director was inspired a bit by his own childhood and his love for magic.
“My writing partner and I [were] looking for a movie that we can self-produce, we come from the science fiction world, so we had to pull back from spaceships and foreign planets and bring it down to earth,” said Dillard. “I’ve been a magician since I was 11 or 12 and we found this weird relationship between street magic and crime, so that's what led to the development of Bo.”
Although techy and entertaining, the movie touches on the difficult decision that some make when choosing an illegal profession. Bo’s character is intelligent and wins an academic scholarship, however, he strays away from this path and chooses a life as a dealer.
“Bo is not the type of kid who wants to involve himself in hardcore drug dealing," said Latimore. "He is just forced to do something because of his circumstance. He had to grow up fast due to the loss of his parents.”
The director of the film wanted to address drug dealing in an empathetic way.
“We’ve seen the young black man sell drugs on TV shows and in movies. I think the exercise in ‘Sleight’ was how can we really take an empathetic approach to that problem. That’s why Bo is a brilliant mind and we really try focus on its circumstance that brought him to this point, it’s not something he really wants to do,” said Dillard.
He continued, “He is doing something unsavory to take care of the people he cares about. We wanted to show that this could happen to anyone. It’s not a problem only of a certain demographic or a certain type of person.”
Science fiction is not a film genre that many African Americans are commonly represented in. Cognizant of this issue, it has becomes Dillard’s mission to create roles for people of color and women that do not solely focus on their identity.
“My goal as a filmmaker is to put women and people of color in the forefront of movies without necessarily focusing on their identity,” the screenwriter told NBCBLK. “I think 'Sleight' kind of does this. It’s not fundamentally about the black experience. It’s just about a kid trying to get out of a bad situation. A situation that literally any of us can be in whether we are black, white, Asian, male or female.”
“Sleight” will be released in theatres on April 28. There is a digital comic book that is a prequel that can be read at sleightcomic.com.