The King of Notting Hill (2017)
A powerful investigative thriller into the true story of controversial black power leader Michael X by dogged US reporter, Rachael Dixon. Accused of murder and facing death, Michael is a dead man walking until Rachael uncovers a government conspiracy to see him hang. Forced to confront her naïve preconceptions about state power and the media, Rachael pursues justice for a man condemned by both as a monster.
PRODUCERS: William Dingli, Dan Bekerman, Rik Hall
DIRECTOR: Mario Van Peebles
WRITER: William Dingli
MUSIC SCORE: Damon Albarn (and the Electric Wave Bureau)
EDITOR: Chris Gill (TBC)
The King of Notting Hill - Synopsis
Trinidad 1972: Michael Abdul Malik scampers through dense jungle, attempting to evade a police manhunt. Captured and demonised, he is accused of murdering English hippie, Gale Ann Benson and a gardener, Joe Skerritt. The media brand him public enemy number one.
Meanwhile in New York, a brash young journalist, Rachael Dixon, smells a story when she learns that John Lennon, with whom she has publicly and embarrassingly clashed, funded Michael’s escape from justice in the UK. Determined to exact revenge and trash Lennon’s reputation by proving he’s funding a ‘monstrous killer’, Rachael, a college drop-out, journeys down to Trinidad to discover the truth about Michael and, in so doing, recover her own self-respect and sense of professional purpose.
But in Trinidad, Rachael is a fish out of water. Unable to interview Malik or his wife Desiree, she’s forced to resort to Natalie, Michael’s former lover and now a member of a hippie cult. Natalie’s views on Michael are distinctly ‘rose-tinted’, in marked contrast to the dishevelled wreck on trial for murder. ‘Her’ Michael could change the world, especially after a life-changing meeting with Malcolm X gives him purpose and identity as Michael X, multicultural pioneer. Rachael’s ‘monster’ narrative is challenged, forcing her to confront the possibility she may be wrong about him and John Lennon. Then, to compound matters, Rachael witnesses Desiree, the only person openly protesting Michael’s innocence accuse one of his ‘followers’ of being an undercover agent working with the police. Is Michael an evil monster or has Rachael stepped into a major injustice? Either way, a bigger ‘splash’ beckons. Now Rachael must decide what matters most – the actual truth, the juiciest narrative, or her own vendetta against Lennon?
An explosive and contemporary story set in a time before 24-hour news, The King of Notting Hill deals with how the media manipulate the truth to create simple narratives around heroes and villains. Rachael learns through Michael how to separate truth from myth and how simple solutions often do not lend themselves to complex problems. In the process, Rachael forces herself to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
For the deeper Rachael delves into Michael’s story, the more a multi-faceted, chameleon figure emerges. To some, a charismatic, radical visionary and force for good, to others, a killer damaged by a traumatized childhood. Desperate for a cohesive ‘hook’, Rachael becomes convinced in Michael’s innocence, a decision which almost gets her killed. Yet despite this and Michael’s tainted conviction, Rachael is able to expose a ruthless state and media conspiracy designed to dispose of political threats regardless of their guilt or innocence. The experience changes her life and she gives up journalism, goes back to college and finishes her law degree.
Character Biogs & Casting Suggestions (Principal Roles)
White American journalist aged 25-30. Rachael comes from a well-connected, middle-class background yet dropped out of college where she was pursuing law to become a TV reporter. She’s feisty and unusually conservative – rebelling against her powerful senator father’s liberal views. But she wears this identity like a veil, masking her own sense of underachievement and lack of fulfilment. Trinidad and the Michael X story represent a way to finally make her mark as a ‘serious’ reporter rather than the station’s ‘token’ woman and renew her sense of professional purpose.
Casting: Chloe Sevigny
Michael DeFreitas, West Indian, aged 30-40. Michael is a mixed-race hustler from Trinidad who mutates into controversial British black power leader, Michael X. Michael’s charismatic appeal inspires fearful envy and he is undermined both by those closest to him and his own internal contradictions as he tries to bridge the racial divide in 1960’s London. His contradictions are expressed by the differences of opinion about him. To some, he was a murderer, to others an idealist and to others still, a visionary leader and a victim of injustice. What is clear is that the real truth about Michael somehow gets lost between the cracks.
Malcolm X: Black male aged 30-40: The charismatic American civil rights leader.
Malcolm combines his charisma with an iron self-discipline and great inner strength. Malcolm has recently broken with the Black Muslims and met Michael when he visits London in late 1964 on his way back from his spiritual re-awakening in Mecca and a few weeks before he was shot. Consequently he was full of new ideas about black/white integration and saw Michael as a willing and capable disciple. Malcolm gave Michael his ‘X’ according to some (disputed) accounts.
Casting: Common, Ludicris
Desiree DeFreitas: West Indian woman aged 30-40. Desiree is Michael’s wife and an enduring presence in his life right through to the end. She is a woman of high moral principle and loyalty. For her, Michael was a misunderstood idealist who was only interested in founding what became the Notting Hill Carnival. Hence for Desiree, he was a victim of injustice in both London and Trinidad.
Casting: Thandie Newton
Natalie: Canadian, 25-30. Natalie was Michael’s lover in London and, disillusioned with the collapse of the hippie scene, becomes part of Jim Jones’ ill-fated Jonestown experiment in Guyana. She hops across to Trinidad after Michael is arrested there. Ever the self-publicist, Natalie immediately hooks onto Rachael’s ‘story’ determined to get the American journalist to report ‘the truth’ about Michael and how he was a radical leader destroyed by the fear of the authorities, the British Malcolm X.