When a serial killer begins targeting the gentrifiers of a dwindling, historically Black neighborhood, three young adults attempt to determine the murderer’s identity… before they’re next.
Honing his story-telling skills primarily through film editing, Xavier has worked postproduction for companies including ESPN Films, Netflix Films, OWN, Complex and Google and directors/producers such as Ira Glass, Joe Berlinger and Jon Greenhalgh. Most recently, Xavier was as an editor on Trial By Fury (2016, Official Selection – American Documentary Film Festival), The Best Last Best Plane Ride Ever (2016, Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival), and New York I Love You (2016, Official Selection – New York African Film Festival; BAMʼs New Voices in Black Cinema).
In 2014, I moved to the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. Once referred to as “Little Harlem,” Bedford-Stuyvesant is a historically black, working-class community previously known for containing the highest concentration of black homeowners in the country. These homeowners included such prominent American figures as Shirley Chisolm, Jacob Lawrence and the Notorious BIG.
When I finally arrived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, however, I noticed the extreme extent to which the Black community was being pushed out as a result of gentrification. And as the community was fading, so were the cultural elements and diversity which made the neighborhood so historically significant. I began to wonder what the cultural consequences of gentrification might mean for Brooklyn and cities like it around the world. This investigation ultimately led me to begin writing a horror film.
The horror genre, and the slasher subgenre, in particular, has always been a powerful tool to explore and critique American suburbia and expose its hidden dangers. Thus, it seemed to be an ideal framework with which to unpack the repercussions of gentrification for by inverting the genre’s suburban tropes within an urban setting.
As White Knuckle’s main characters debate the identity of the killer, broader questions are raised about the importance of cultural identity for American minorities. As they discuss what constitutes a psychopath, the notion of inner-city black pathology is challenged. And as the characters face the threat of murder, the parallel reality of a community and culture which is facing its own demise from gentrification becomes apparent.
White Knuckle is an effort to create a dialogue about every citizen’s role in gentrification and the ways in which we can combat its ill effects through empathy and understanding. At present, the Western world’s climate is one in which division, power, and cultural hegemony threaten to consume us all. I believe a film examining the horror of a crumbling community is more important now than ever.