photo from movie set of The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

Prof. Scahill on The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

February 22, 2021

In our series Wonderwork, CU Denver students, faculty, staff, and alumni recommend one book, podcast, television show, film, etc. that deserves more attention. Our ultimate goal is to promote a more diverse and inclusive book and media culture. February is Black History Month, so our focus is on works by or about Black writers and directors. Nominate your favorite Wonderwork by or posting on social media with #CUDenverWonderWork

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is a genre-bending tale of a queer Nigerian-American teen who is pulled over by police, shot to death, and who reawakens to find himself repeating the same day over and over again. Each time, he makes different choices leading to the same conclusion: a powerful metaphor for the frustration and anger that galvanized the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The film uses the familiar structure of the repeated day narrative (popularly used in films like Run Lola RunEdge of Tomorrow, and Happy Death Day) to bold and innovative effect in this socially conscious thriller. It further offers a rare and nuanced portrait of intersecting black/queer/immigrant identities, providing a narrative point of view rarely seen in cinema. 

The official trailer for the film The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

Just how this film came into being should serve as an inspiration for any screenwriting student. Written four years ago by Nigerian-born Stanley Kalu when he was a student at USC, the script for The Obituary of Tunde Johnson was the winner of the 2018 Million Dollar Screenplay Competition. Winning the competition came with a $1 million production budget, and within three months principal photography had begun with Ali LeRoi (Everybody Hates Chris) directing, and starring Steven Silver (13 Reasons Why) as Tunde Johnson.   

The film had its World Premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019, was one of eight films awarded the prestigious Next Wave designation, opened the Austin Film Festival a month later, and won the Audience Award for the Best Debut Narrative Feature at the 2020 L.A. Outfest. The Obituary of Tunde Johnson will have a simultaneous theatrical and digital release on February 26, 2021.  

– Assistant Professor Andrew Scahill, English Department

Andrew Scahill is an assistant professor specializing in film studies. His work tends to focus on genre and reception (audiences), with a particular interest in representations of youth rebellion. He is the author of The Revolting Child in Horror Cinema: Youth Rebellion and Queer Spectatorship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and is currently at work on a monograph concerning the representation of Washington DC on film.