With Emperor, director and co-writer Mark Amin reimagines for the screen the virtually unknown true story of one Shields “Emperor” Green – an escaped slave whose daring raid with abolitionist John Brown on Harpers Ferry in 1859 helped trigger the civil war.
Giving most action films a run for their money, this period film features high-speed chases, gunfights and explosions galore. So while it tells a story of tragedy and brutality, a fighting spirit propels the narrative on, with an overriding sense of the greater good over individual pain, the Emperor becoming a heroic symbol akin to a 19th century Black Panther. And what better man for the job than Nigerian-born Dayo Okeniyi, of Hunger Games and Terminator Genisys fame.
In one of our favourite interviews of all time, The Upcoming chatted to Okeniyi about why Emperor wanted to avoid the usual “torture porn” seen in some slave narratives, the importance of telling history from a black perspective, plus overcoming his fear of snakes the hard way and why Chadwick Boseman was such an inspiration to those of his generation – even if he did pip him to the post on a few roles.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 12th March 2021.
Emperor is released digitally on demand on 1st March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Emperor here: