TIFF ’19: Seberg

By Jason Thai

Seberg is a political thriller film based off the life of Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart), an American actress who was popularized in French movies in the 1960s. Returning to America in 1967 to star in a movie, Seberg runs into black rights activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), a member of the Black Panthers. Having been a politically active since she was a teenager, Seberg decides to work with Hakim in support of black human rights. However, the FBI doesn?t like this and Jean becomes caught in crosshairs of the American Government in the midst of the war for black civil rights .

Based off the real-life of story of Jean Seberg?s conflict with the FBI, Seberg‘s writers used references to public records raided from the FBI exposing their unethical and illegal surveillance against her. The film tells its story from the perspective of Jean, focusing on who she is as a person as well as her conflict with a crooked and unethical American government. As a person who has always strived to help people and use her platform as a celebrity and money to help, Seberg ends up helping Hakim support the education of poor underprivileged black children. However, 1960s America was a time of racist and unethical behaviour, especially towards the war of rights between the government and black citizens.

Through Agent Jack Solomon (Jack O’Connell), a man trying to do well and good for his country and support his wife, the viewer sees the terrible things they do to discredit Seberg?s reputation and gather illegally enquired information on Jean to use against her and Hakim. Breaking into Jean?s home, using parabolic mics and setting up bugs in Jean’s home to listen in on her conversations, the FBI had no limits in their efforts to discredit Hakim?s relationship with Jean, his family, and the Black Panthers. Relentless in their attacks, the FBI are even willing to go so far as to spread news articles to the public, featuring cartoons of Jean drawn as a French pig and Hakim as a grossly drawn monkey-looking creature having intercourse. (Eventually, they spread these physical articles/pictures to the school for underprivileged black children run by Hakim?s wife.) Overall, the years of spying on Jean by the American government led her to have anxiety problems, develop paranoia, and a fear for her life and family?s safety.

In the end, Seberg does a wonderful job portraying the perspective of Jean Seberg. Kristen Stewart is able to show the grace and elegance that Jean had at the peak of career as well as the caring and loving heart that Jean had for the civil rights and freedom of all people. By showing his guilt and shame he felt by harming peoples lives and slowing the progression of the equal rights of black citizens, Jack’s character proves to be a great way to tell the perspective of the FBI and the struggles of working for a corrupt American government. Fighting for what his colleagues claimed were for the ?greater good?, Jack constantly has the evil agendas and racist propaganda of his peers hammered into his head. 

In the end, Seberg is a great political thriller movie that does a well job showcasing the propaganda and racism of a corrupt American government. 

Having premiered this week at the Toronto International Film Festival, Seberg does not yet have a release date.

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