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Set It Off

F Gary Gray

Presented by Screen Queen:

Set It Off is a 1996 American crime action film directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Kate Lanier and Takashi Bufford. The film stars Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise (in her film debut). It follows four close friends in Los Angeles, California, who decide to plan and execute a bank robbery. They decide to do so for different reasons, although all four want better for themselves and their families.

*** “What’s the procedure when you have a gun to your head?”

I’d be hard pressed to choose the most meaningful line from the classic film Set It Off, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. But if there was, well, a gun to my head, the line above might be the one. Fans will remember the words are said twice: First, at the film’s opening, when a white male police officer scolds Frankie (Vivica A. Fox) for failing to follow protocol during a robbery at the bank where she works as a teller; second, at the end of the movie, when Frankie holds a gun to the same officer’s head after she and her homegirls have robbed several banks themselves.

As fierce as it is, this line is more than just a memorable plot frame for a movie about badass Black women bank robbers. It points to the film’s critiques of racial, gender, sexual and class politics, sexual and state violence, reproductive rights and the practice of solidarity among women — critiques that, when the film was released in 1996, were both right on time and ahead of their time. This line and so many others show why Set It Off is the Black feminist film we need to be talking about right now. *** Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, “Why ‘Set It Off’ Is a Seminal Film for Black Feminism”


  • 7/8 | 8:00PM
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