Director Carey Williams returns to Sundance again this year with his amiable second feature Emergency, making it his first Dramatic Competition debut at the festival. Last year, his movie R#J, an imaginative take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, premiered under NEXT programming at Sundance. The whimsical film went on to play a few months later at South By Southwest (SXSW).
The narrative feature Emergency is not new to this publication. In fact, I reviewed the short film version of the same name when Williams’ film was featured among several shorts at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in 2018. The short film also won the Special Jury Award at Sundance in 2018.
What happens when an unconscious white girl is found face down on the floor in your apartment? For Kunle, Sean, and Carlos — three men of color — this predicament places them in an ill-fated situation. Should they call the police for help? Or try to get her to a hospital on their own? Emergency takes us on a series of misadventures that leads to some stunning conclusions.
Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) is your total brainiac straight-A student who is on the fast track to pursuing his advanced degree. His priority is making sure his thesis is intact, and he dresses like he’s ready to attend Sunday church service. Meanwhile, Sean (RJ Cyler), a bit of a ne’er-do-well free spirit, is determined to complete the school’s frat party legendary tour. In the midst of their tour, Kunle realizes his lab cultures, which require refrigeration, are not properly sealed and must head back to the science lab. Otherwise, his entire thesis will be ruined. However, a very convincing Sean persuades him to go through with the tour. On their way home for a quick retreat before heading back to the lab, Kunle and Sean’s worst fears are imagined. A random white girl is found passed out in their home. Their Latino roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) is preoccupied in his room playing video games, completely oblivious to his surroundings.
A story like this would seem pretty harmless in a situation involving white…