The trailer for “Loqueesha,” an upcoming movie that’s kicking up controversy over its racially charged plot, begins with a boast: “official selection” of the 2019 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
There’s only one problem: The indie comedy, which stars Jeremy Saville as a white bartender who pretends to be a black female radio talk show host, “was never selected, screened, or given an award at our festival,” the San Luis Obispo Film Festival posted on Twitter on Saturday.
In “Loqueesha,” which opens in limited theaters July 12, Joe (Saville) goes searching for a new job to pay for his son’s private school tuition and has a revelation: “If I was a black woman, I’d be perfect.” Hired sight unseen, Joe becomes a star as his sassy alter-ego, Loqueesha — and his radio show becomes a hit.
Since the movie’s trailer went live in March, critics have called “Loqueesha” “racist,” “disgusting” and “straight trash” — and compared the movie to 1986’s “Soul Man,” about a white college student who pretends to be black in order to get into Harvard law school.
“Its premise & idiotic attempt to belittle (black) women is the handy work of not-so passive-aggressive racists,” a Twitter user called Ashia86 wrote Saturday. “The fact Hollywood didn’t instantly burn the script & blacklist the writers says a lot. Anyone involved in this movie will be boycotted.”
“Black women aren’t a costume @JeremySaville,” another Twitter user, MzYummyDread, wrote Friday. “This is racist. This is not satirical or slapstick comedy.”
Meanwhile, some questioned whether “Loqueesha” is actually “a The Producers level scam,” as Twitter user biafradenmark wrote Saturday.
“I think the ‘Loqueesha’ movie trailer is fake. I HOPE it’s fake,” actor and comedian Patton Oswalt wrote on Twitter on Friday.
On Instagram, Saville, who also directed, wrote and produced “Loqueesha,” appeared to cite “White Chicks,” in which two black FBI agents go undercover as white socialites, as an inspiration.
“With @marlonwayans, @LoqueeshaMovie meet #WhiteChicks,” Saville wrote on Saturday, sharing a picture of himself with “White Chicks” star Marlon Wayans.
“I hate it when people tag me with their bulls--t,” Wayans tweeted Saturday, seemingly in response. “It’s annoying as f--k.”
According to a festival news release sent Monday, Saville originally submitted “Loqueesha” to the San Luis Obispo Film Festival in the George Sidney Independent Film Competition — but the movie was rejected as an “official selection.”
After that decision, the festival said, Saville asked that the movie be reconsidered for the festival’s Central Coast Filmmakers Showcase, which features movies produced, directed and written by residents in Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. (Saville lives in Carmel.)
“Ultimately, based on the reviews of a number of the festival’s screeners in consultation with the festival director, a decision was made to screen the film in that category,” the release said.
According to the release, Saville decided to pull “Loqueesha” from the festival lineup before its scheduled world premiere in March, and it never screened in San Luis Obispo.
“The filmmaker was advised by a potential distributor who felt it wasn’t ready to premiere,” festival director Wendy Eidson wrote in an email.
“Even though this film did not end up screening at the festival,” the release added, “the truth is that the film did not receive an adequate vetting process and for that, the festival apologizes and commits to installing appropriate measures to see that this unfortunate circumstance does not occur in the future.”
As for those implied film festival bonafides? “SLOIFF’s legal representatives immediately requested that the trailer be pulled and those laurels be removed,” the release said, adding that “the process to do that is underway.”
The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival was named one of “50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” by Moviemaker magazine in April. The festival returns March 17-22, 2020.