A24’s The Inspection, based on the real-life experiences of writer/director Elegance Bratton, is a hope from Bratton to bring people back from the brink of polarization.
He talked about his hope for a more conversations about the gray areas of life in an interview with Shadow and Act’s managing editor Trey Mangum, alongside stars Gabrielle Union (who also serves as executive producer), Jeremy Pope, Raul Castillo, Aaron Dominguez and Eman Esfandi.
Bratton said his life partner, Chester Algernal Gordon, who is also a producer on the film, told him that his purpose as an artist “is to take the audience to places they can never go without you.”
“…And I wanted to make that distance a little shorter for myself,” he said regarding what his partner told him. “When I joined the Marine Corp., I thought I was worthless. I had grown up hearing that because I was gay, I had no place in the world. Then, I joined the Marines and found out I was important, I was valuable, that I mattered because of my ability to protect the person to my left and to my right. And that was really empowering for me.”
“So this story became really really important to tell because I feel like we’re at a moment in society where polarization is a global trend,” he continued. “I wanted to make something that could bring people to the middle and have necessary conversations about mutual aid and support.”
Union said that she had read about Bratton in the New York Times before The Inspection ever came to her. “I was just a fan,” she said. But when Bratton and producer Effie Brown called her about participating in The Inspection, she immediately said yes.
“…[T]o have them both reach out as part of the producing team and one of our actors, I have so much respect for them anyway, I’m like, ‘Sign me up, whatever they’re doing, whatever it is,'” she said.
When she learned she was playing Bratton’s mother (with Pope playing Bratton), she said it was a “huge responsibility.”
“That’s such a huge responsiblity to play a real person and the director’s actual mother, where they had a complicated relationship,” she said. “It was hard, because as a mom, reading this and working, I want a whole different ending…I want it to reflect how me and my husband move through the world and how we raise our kids, but that wasn’t the task at hand and I had to figure out a way to find common ground with somebody I would normally dismiss and judge.”
Their common ground, she said, “is that we both been willing to barter, gamble, trade things that are precious to us, whether that be people, like our children, or in my case, my scruples, my soul, my common sense for opportunity to center white supremacy, to be validated, to be chosen.”
“We’ll all barter with something. But the fact that I realize that we had that in common, even though it manifested differently, was dark…and I’ve never had to mine that kind of darkness for art’s sake,” she said.
Watch to the full interview below. The Inspection is playing in theaters now: