Rebel is Rebecca Carroll's regular conversation on race and pop culture. You can hear Rebecca talk about these issues with guests on Wednesday mornings on WNYC, or participate in one of Rebel's monthly conversations in The Greene Space. The next one is tonight at 7 p.m.


The much-buzzed about film Sorry to Bother You from first-time writer/director Boots Riley is a creative tour de force. Riley uses wildly inventive surrealism and satire to tell the story of a black telemarketer. Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), is suffering from existential angst, but he then taps an unlikely (or likely, depending on who you are) shortcut in order to climb the ranks and make it big.

Cassius’s rise to the top changes everything, especially his relationship with his performance artist girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson).

The film is nuanced, novelistic and inventive, and it introduces us to a new filmmaker with an extraordinary vision.

Listen below to my conversation with Riley to talk about the film’s breakout success and the message he hopes audiences will come away with.

(Pete Lee/Annapurna Pictures.) Director Boots Riley on the set of "Sorry to Bother You."

Riley says that his film is entertainment—but it has a definite message.

"I think that right now, we get this litany of problems...But it's not that people are apathetic. They just don't know what they can do," he says. "I hope one of the things people take away from this film is an optimism—that although things are messed up, there are a lot of other problems, there's a fight going on. And as long as there's a fight going on, there's hope."

Continue the Rebel conversation tonight, Wed. July 18, in the Greene Space at 7 p.m. Guests Tanzina Vega, Joan Walsh and Blair Imani will discuss whether or not there's a statute of limitations on racism. If you can't make it in person, watch the free live stream.

Rebecca Carroll is a cultural critic and Editor of Special Projects at WNYC, where she develops, produces and hosts a broad array of multi-platform content, including podcasts, live events and on-air broadcasts. Rebecca is also a critic at large for the Los Angeles Times, and a regular columnist at Shondaland in addition to Gothamist. She is the author of several interview-based books about race and blackness in America, including the award-winning Sugar in the Raw, and her personal essays, cultural commentary and opinion pieces have been published widely.