When you think of superhero movies, you probably think of the CGI-stuffed, big-budget spectacles of the MCU and DCEU. But in the thick of the SXSW Conference, Fast Color, a story of a superheroine finding her power, won the hearts of an elated audience. Gritty, thrilling and beautiful, it feels like Chronicle meets the Storm solo movie that X-Men fans have been begging for.
In this leanly budgeted sci-fi drama, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror, A Wrinkle In Time) stars as a woman on the run named Ruth. When we meet her, she's wearing ratty clothes, fleeing from a sketchy warehouse while thick ropes still bind her bleeding wrists. The script by wife-and-husband team Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz won't spell out Ruth's circumstances with easy expositional dialogue. Instead, Fast Color, which is Hart's directorial debut, breathlessly follows its harried heroine as she suffers a violent seizure that causes an earthquake which rattles a whole town and sends a pack of snarling government agents on her tracks.
Desperate to get control over this nature-bending power that she doesn't understand, Ruth runs home to her mother (Orange Is The New Black's Lorraine Toussaint), and the young daughter she'd left behind (Saniyya Sidney). In a small farmhouse, these three strong Black women work together to mend their broken bonds, and harness the mysterious abilities that have run in their bloodline for generations.
To be clear: this story is not tied to the mythos of Ororo Munroe, and has no affiliation with the Fox-owned X-Men movie franchise. But when fans have begged for a Storm solo movie, they have called out for a Black superheroine of incredible power and inner strength to get her moment in the spotlight. And Fast Color is exactly that, presenting Ruth's tale as a scrappy origin story of a hero going from self-loathing to world-saving.
Following Fast Color's world premiere at SXSW, Hart, her co-writer, and cast took to the stage of the posh Paramount Theater for a Q&A, hosted by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. There, she addressed a missed opportunity she'd long seen in the superhero genre. “There are superhero movies before Black Panther and superhero movies after Black Panther,” Hart began. “I’ll talk about the superhero movies before Black Panther, which are usually about white men destroying things in order to save them. When we thought of a mom as the superhero, we thought female power should be about creation.”
Hart spoke about how becoming a mother made her feel powerful, and encouraged her to make the leap from screenwriter to director. So, in a sense, Ruth's story of discovering her confidence and true power is based on Hart's own experience with motherhood. But Hart realizes Fast Color is much more than her story.
“In casting Gugu, Saniyya, and Lorraine," Hart said, "(Fast Color) became about something much bigger than me, which is about women of color. It was a privilege for me as a white woman to step back and allow these incredible actresses to tell their story through a story we had started, but which became much bigger than us.”
In all honesty, we're still hoping the massive success of Black Panther will encourage Fox to finally give Storm an X-Men movie of her own. But regardless, Fast Color has given superhero fans a unique and inspiring story to adore. One snag: Fast Color is still seeking distribution. So fingers crossed that some daring distributor will catch on to its wonders, and bring it soon to a theater near you.