In the new psychological thriller “Supremacy,” a recently paroled white supremacist (Joe Anderson) kills an African American deputy, then invades a nearby home to hide from the authorities. The house happens to belong to a black family, the members of which the supremacist takes hostage, spewing racist language all the way.
Sacramento filmmaker Deon Taylor knew “Supremacy” would be provocative. But he did not want it to veer into bad taste. So he looked to Danny Glover, who plays the terrorized family’s senior member, for feedback during the film’s shoot in the San Fernando Valley.
“Lethal Weapon” star Glover, 68, brought history and context to the film’s set, Taylor said. As student activist in the 1960s at San Francisco State University, Glover produced a 2011 documentary about the Black Panthers. His insight into the film’s racially charged subject matter was vital, Taylor said.
“He would say, ‘Let’s think about this scene – you might want to pull back here,’” Taylor said of Glover. “He actually was a barometer of what we can and cannot do.”
“Supremacy,” which began streaming on iTunes and opened in several theaters across the country (but not in Sacramento) on Friday, still goes pretty far.
“The movie is polarizing in that it is not afraid to say (a racial epithet),” Taylor said. “It is not afraid to be itself, and be ugly. At the same time, while you are taking that journey, the message comes through that racism is just ignorance.”
The film was inspired by a true story. In 1995, recent Pelican Bay Prison parolee Robert Scully shot and killed Sonoma County deputy Frank Trejo (who was of Latino descent) outside Santa Rosa. Scully and a female companion then forced their way into a nearby home, holding its inhabitants captive.
“Supremacy” paints its supremacist character, Tully, less as a pure villain than a lost soul who made terrible choice after terrible choice. As “Supremacy” progresses, Tully shows a grudging respect for Glover’s character, who stays calm in the face of the parolee’s racist rantings.
Taylor shot the $1 million-budgeted film more than a year ago. It played last June at the Los Angeles Film Festival, after which it was acquired by distributor Well Go USA Entertainment. Its wider release comes just after the cresting of an intense wave of racial unrest in the United States.
Taylor said he hopes “Supremacy” contributes to the discussion.
“A lot of these things that are going on – from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown to the police officers that were shot in New York – it’s all being done by people who are just not able to communicate well,” Taylor said. “Be it a police officer looking at a young black man because of his dreads, or because he has his hood on, or a black youth or a Hispanic youth who are looking at (all) police officers under one lens.
“We’ve got to get rid of that (prejudice),” Taylor continued. “At the end of the day, you hope a movie like ‘Supremacy’ can show you how ignorant things can be (initially), but then how God and light and being positive can affect the outcome (so) it is not violent.”
Taylor, who usually makes horror and comedic films, said he had been looking “for something heavier” when he met with Vincent Cirrincione, a talent manager (Halle Berry is a client) and producer. Cirrincione showed Taylor the “Supremacy” script, which was written by Eric Adams.
Bay Area screenwriter Adams, reached by phone, said he had been intrigued by the real-life case that inspired the movie.
“I was immediately taken by the fact that a black family was held hostage by a white supremacist – from the point of view of society and how we can draw lessons from it,” Adams said.
Most press coverage of the case, he said, focused on Trejo’s killing, with the home invasion mentioned “almost an afterthought.” Adams sought out the real family to get details that informed his script.
Despite a small budget and the constraints of a shoot that lasted only 17 days, Taylor shot “Supremacy” on expensive 16-millimeter film.
“I got beat up every day about shooting on 16 mm,” Taylor said. But he wanted the film to be “gripping and ugly,” he said. “There was no way to get the film I wanted out of HD (video).”
Call The Bee’s Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.