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Director Elegance Bratton on semi-autobiographical film “The Inspection”

Elegance Bratton joins Washington Post Live on Thursday, Dec. 15. (Video: The Washington Post)

The new film “The Inspection” follows a young, gay Black man who joins the U.S. Marine Corps during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. Writer and filmmaker Elegance Bratton joins Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart to discuss how his experiences with homophobia in the military and at home inspired his debut film.

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“My sense of strength and power is drawn from forgiveness, my ability to forgive. And that’s what I learned about myself in the Marine Corps. That I have a profound capacity for forgiveness and that that forgiveness is what makes me a real man. And that’s what this whole movie is about. It’s challenging the notion of what masculinity is … Being homeless, Black and queer, I have learned a system I call radical, defiant empathy where if I see where you’re weak, I’m going to step in and try to make you strong. Because I hope that you’ll appreciate that and do the same for me … And I hope that when people watch this movie, that it starts a conversation between left and right about forgiveness as being a tenet of real, true masculinity.”- Elegance Bratton (Video: Washington Post Live)
“The greatest lesson I learned in the Marine Corps is how to talk to people who are different from me and to find the middle ground … It’s America. It’s an intensely concentrated version of the United States. You’ve got the racism, the homophobia, the sexism, the classism, the ableism, all of that is still at play. But as a Marine, we’re taught that there’s no such thing as Black Marines or White Marines, that we are all dark green or light green. We have an intimate understanding and an essential understanding that our lives could quite possibly rest in the hands of someone that is really different and sees the world in a different way from us and thus, we have to resolve our conflicts before we get to the battlefield … All 8 billion of us on this planet, all 400 million of us in this country, we are all interconnected. We all survive because of one another … And as a result, we owe it to each other to talk across our differences and to find the middle ground.” - Elegance Bratton (Video: Washington Post Live)
“As a Black gay man, I don't really see movies with Black gay heroes very often. Most times, we're the accessory to the hero. And the reality of it is, I think people go to see movies to see themselves and to see aspirational versions of themselves. One out of 2 Black gay men are projected to be HIV positive in their lifetime. We’re eight times more likely to be homeless, eight times more likely to commit suicide. There’s hell to pay when you’re living in this skin and you’re trying to be the best, most authentic version of yourself. What I'm hoping to do with this is to inspire a generation to keep fighting." - Elegance Bratton (Video: Washington Post Live)
“This isn't a movie about someone trying to figure if they're gay or not. When I joined the Marine Corps, I came to the Marine Corps after about a decade out of the closet and living my life. I honestly felt like my identity was a catastrophe. It resulted in me being homeless for 10 years from ages 16-25. When it comes down to it, Ellis is a Black gay man trying to figure out how to get by in the world and where his place is in the world. It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried a thousand different things before I joined the Marine Corps to try to become relevant to the society. But I was just met with a lot of ostracism and rejection at every turn. In the Marines, I finally found a team that would accept me.” - Elegance Bratton (Video: Washington Post Live)
“My mom, she was killed about three days after the movie was greenlit. I very much made this movie, I made it for the world, but I very much made it to reach my mom. I knew that by casting Gabrielle Union, that was her favorite actress, I knew that people would go up to her and say, ‘Look what you son did. Watch it.’ And I was hoping that she would watch it and it would change her. And to have her die so tragically, it was a lot for me … We shot this movie against all of the odds. And I’m just really, really grateful.” - Elegance Bratton (Video: Washington Post Live)

Elegance Bratton

Writer & Director, “The Inspection”