Rebecca Varidel
8th Jun 2015

Each year the Sundance Film Festival supports the work of independent film makers, and in 2015 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Witch, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Advantageous and Cartel Land, were all award winners. This year, alongside those winners, the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Excellence in Editing was awarded to Lee Haugen for the film Dope.

In Australia, Dope premiered tonight in the Sydney Film Festival at the State Theatre, and the Australian theatrical release is August 20th.

It's been five years since writer and director Rick Famuyiwa delivered My Family Wedding and more than fifteen years since his first film The Wood. In his latest and fifth film Dope, Famuyiwa continues to explore the themes of race, and acceptance of self and others.

Hailed as a teen comedy, Dope certainly struts the teen stereotypes as high school virgin Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two nerd friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), transition a rite of passage from their innocent stance in the '90s, and their inner and outer contradictions of being into white stuff, to understanding the more the tangible currency of their neighbourhood.

Yet with the neighbourhood elements, urban African-American culture such as hip hop music, street gangs, racial dichotomies, and drugs, all part of the fabric of the film, Dope also fits smack into the 'hood genre. In fact it's been more than twenty years since we've been privileged to witness a 'hood film of this brilliance. Dope is possibly the most well rounded and well made example since 1991's Boyz N The Hood.

With its incorporation of bitcoins, dark web, two eras of music, social media and selfies, Dope is the epitome of a millennial mash of both film genres.

Dope deserves its Sundance slot and its prize for brilliance in editing. It is an outstanding movie. Yet, past the usual foray of independent fringe film, Dope, through its screen writing, diverse gathering of cast - rapper Rakim Mayers (A$AP Rocky), Chanel Iman, Zoë Kravitz, Blake Anderson and Tyga, and with narration by Forest Whitaker - pulsing rhythm of cinematic portrayal and the enlisting of music luminary Pharrell Williams, presents the vision of an ambitious film that is strong from start to finish, and has the makings of a mainstream blockbuster.

Dope features fifteen songs curated by Pharrell Williams with the artist list including everyone from Nas to Public Enemy and plenty of other hip-hop greats. Pharrell also wrote four original songs for the movie 'Can't Bring Me Down', 'Don't Get Deleted', 'Go Head' and 'It's My Turn Now' which are performed by the cast.