The Harder They Fall was one of the more interesting projects that Netflix had lined up for 2021, a debut feature by the British singer-songwriter Jeymes Samuel. Intended as a revisionist interpretation of the western genre, the film featured a predominantly Black cast since Samuel had always dreamed of making a truly Black western.
As a child, Samuel had grown up watching westerns and loved their inherent cinematic quality but he found it hard to process the “inconsistency with the portrayals of people of colour”. That’s why he set out to make The Harder They Fall, having discovered through books that there were “amazing characters — both heroes and villains, both men and women of all colours”.
The film stars Idris Elba as Rufus Back, a member of an infamous gang that gained notoriety during the 19th century. Elba features alongside the likes of rising stars such as the Atlanta duo Zazie Beetz and Lakeith Stanfield in addition to Regina King who shines in the important role of a gang leader in The Harder They Fall.
In this year’s iteration of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), Samuel’s directorial debut won the biggest accolade by picking up the coveted Best Picture Award. Samuel also won the award for Best Director while the cast ended up securing the collective glory of winning in the Best Ensemble category, in addition to a Best Music win.
“What if there were women and people of colour who weren’t subservient in some way? I think it’s really important to give a rounded and more balanced version of events. For me, it’s almost like this movie isn’t the Old West. It’s the New West,” Samuel explained in an interview while trying to translate the importance of such re-interpretations.
Watch the trailer for The Harder They Fall below.