Jordan Peele

On Realizing He Has a Deep Interest in Discussing Race

I realized it in the middle of this movie. Looking back on Key & Peele and what we did with race, that, “Holy shit, I’m obsessed with race.” It sort of hit me. I think I’ve had this obsession with the African-American identity, the representation of my perspective and the black perspective, and the broadening of what that means and what is regarded as the African-American perspective in our culture and in pop culture. For a long time, there have been very thin avenues with which we’ve been able to explore the African-American perspective.

On How the Concept of the Sunken Place Has Resonated with Audiences

The best part is that I’ve started seeing art inspired by the film, inspired by the idea of the Sunken Place. This idea really seemed to resonate, proving that putting a name on that feeling was needed. I started seeing all this art come in on Instagram, people were tagging me on beautiful art that was jumping off of this concept. A lot of it was Daniel Kaluuya’s face, that now iconic image of him crying. The whole conversation surrounding the movie is fascinating, and I think that that image of Daniel works so powerfully because we don’t really see that image portrayed much; a black man scared, vulnerable, accessing his darkest trauma. It almost felt like black men haven’t been allowed to be vulnerable in pop culture in that way. This is why horror movies are important, because they are a way for us to face our fears and explore all of the images out there. By not having the image of the vulnerable, frightened black person out there, we’re not expressing, people aren’t hearing that we are afraid, that we are in pain. It’s very connected to the lack of substantive response when it comes to violence against black people by the police. If we’re not allowed to put these images out there, if they’re being silenced, if they’re being taken away, if we’re being called “sons of bitches” for standing up or kneeling down, then that’s the Sunken Place.

Director Jordan Peele speaks onstage at the Outstanding Directors Award panel during The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Photograph by Matt Winkelmeyer

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