I like the movies that embrace the complexity of the human condition.

Justin Simien

Justin Simien

Profession: Film Director
Nationality: American

Some suggestions for you :

One of the things that I love about Robert Altman's movies is that, really, a Robert Altman movie is just a bunch of short films about various people told at the same time.

I am more than a black guy. I am a person, I'm storyteller, I'm a son, I'm a friend, so I am all those things, so it is frustrating, to a degree, to be limited by other people's perceptions of me, but at the same time, it is true that I am a black guy, and, you know, it's like I'm rooted in but not bound by.

The thing about TV is you kind of have an endless canvas. You can always keep going.

For whatever reason, gay characters, or characters that deal with sexuality issues, who are black, in 'black films'... are typically not dealt with with any sort of complexity. They're exoticized: their being gay is sort of the point.

My thing is to try to tell the truth as honestly as possible. For me, the weight is, how can I tell the truth through fiction, the best that I can?

That is just the reality of being a marginalized person in this country: you have to deal with the psychological impact of your oppressor - whether that's being a woman dealing with men or gay people dealing with straight people or trans people dealing with everybody else.

I'm not a big fan of shooting something that looks like it could belong in any movie. I'm not a fan of, okay, 'wide shot, wide shot, medium shot, close-up, close-up - we'll figure it out in post.' I hate that.

I remember the first time that I realized that being black meant that I wasn't allowed certain things. It was in the fourth grade, and it was who I thought was my best friend not inviting me to his birthday party because I would be the only black kid there. It was the first time I ever felt restricted, and it certainly wasn't the last time.

In the press, there's this desire for the black audience to be this monolithic thing that always responds to the same stars. That's a really reductive way of looking at the black audience.

I often have to play a role to get what I want in my life. At the same time, I can't do that without also nourishing who I really am and being aware of my true self and the ways in which I'm not bound by my race or sexual orientation or class or country or whatever.

Balance, I think, and self-care is something I want people to really take to heart.

The further away you get from being a straight white man, the less freedoms you have to figure out who you are and negotiate what you mean to society.

Shows like 'Empire'... one of the most profound powerful things is that there's a gay male character who is loved. That character is going to save a lot of people's lives. Black families are confronting the idea that a gay black character can be human.

It is frustrating having to walk through America having to bob and weave people's impressions of me because they see a tall black guy walking down the street. That is frustrating.