In a world where shrinking or being told to diminish one’s authentic self to make white people feel comfortable is an act that Black people know all too well, one filmmaker is bringing that sentiment to the big screen through the upcoming film, The American Society of Magical Negroes.

The official description describes it as “a fresh, satirical comedy about a young man, Aren (Justice Smith), who is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people’s lives easier. “

Kobi Libii’s feature directorial debut will premiere at the 2024 Sundance Festival, but ahead of the movie’s first official trailer debut on Friday, he spoke with Blavity’s Shadow and Act about how this story is truly one of art imitating life.

“It all, from my perspective, starts with the magical negro trope and just to define that, in my own terms, I think of it as being basically a Black best friend character,” said Libii. “A stereotypical Black sidekick who is only there to serve the white hero’s journey and when you live in a culture where stories like that are told over and over again and Black people are always to the side and we’re always over her and not sufficiently centered and given the spotlight. I think that the experience of being shoved to the side takes a toll and this is hopefully a joyful and sort of hopeful response to that experience.”

“A lot of what this story’s about is being seen as a stereotype, what it’s like to move through the world being seen as a Black stereotype,” Libii said, recalling his decision to make falling in love the one thing that may cause Aren to lose those newfound powers. 

He continued, “And in my experience, the opposite of being seen as a stereotype is being looked at by someone who loves you and when someone sees you and understands you and gets you for who you are. That’s the best feeling and being seen as a stereotype is pretty much the worst feeling. Putting those experiences in opposition, I think, really helps highlight how beautiful it is to be fully expressed and just to move through the world as your Black self. It also highlights how alienating it is to move through the world when you’re forced into these sort of sidekick roles that don’t let you be who you really are.”

Overall, Libii hopes to use this form of storytelling to not only highlight the nuances of navigating through life as a Black person in America but to also empower those who go to see it.

“This film is about race and there’s real, raw stuff there for all of us who’ve experienced racism and lived in a culture of white supremacy, but I hope that it’s quite joyful,” said Libii. “To me, part of what you want from the movies is to go and sort of be charged up or fueled up for your week and so I hope that wherever you come to this subject matter, you can come and watch this movie and leave and feel bigger and bolder and more joyful than you were when you came in.”

Take a peek inside the world of what Libii calls “fun, Black wizards” in the official trailer for The American Society of Magical Negroes below.

The film, also starring David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver, Michaela Watkins, Aisha Hinds, Tim Baltz with Rupert Friend and Nicole Byer, will be in theaters March 22 after its Sundance bow.