There’s a lot that goes into building an identity for ourselves. Where is it we call home? What kind of movies or music do we like? What are our values and traditions? What hobbies do we have? They call go into who we consider ourselves to be and what persona it is that’s projected out to the world. Change out circumstances in some meaningful way and our sense of self can be rocked pretty fundamentally, forcing us to not only to acclimate to new surroundings but also adjust our expectations of hopes, dreams and aspirations based on where we find ourselves.
That’s the situation facing the title character in Morris From America. Morris (Markees Christmas) is a 13-year old who’s been relocated to Heidelberg, Germany when his father Curtis (Craig Robinson), a professional soccer coach, is relocated there. It’s a whole new situation for Morris, who dreams of being a big time rapper, as Germany is far removed from the neighborhood and lifestyle he’s accustomed to. While there, though, Morris develops a crush on a young girl at his school who eventually helps him get used to his new home as well as actually take some steps toward achieving his rap career.
The one poster tells us “Nothing rhymes with Germany,” which is a funny line in and of itself. The main image is Robinson looking very serious as Christmas shoots a water gun up in the air. So there are a couple different things here telling us that the movie is in some manner about current or aspiring rappers who are translated from their native America to Germany. It’s simple but it gets the message across.
There were a couple more posters released that were “alternate” versions, seemingly meant to drum up publicity and not be used as actual one-sheets. The one shows Morris from behind striking a gangster-type pose, the movie’s title and cast names written out here like paint brush strokes, this time using the copy “He’s come a long way.” The other just shows a silhouette of Morris’ head, with a string of ray lyrics making up the wires of the headphones we see are coming out of his ears. This time the title and cast are just kind of written as if they’re marker on a whiteboard of some sort and there’s no copy point on display.
The first trailer starts out by introducing us to Morris, who’s grounded by his father for liking terrible music. We see him practicing his German and find out his father brought them here for his job. Morris has aspirations as a rapper and soon becomes entranced by a young girl in his class. The two of them start spending more time together and Morris continues chasing his hip-hop dreams. We see some of the antics he gets into on both fronts and some of the trouble those antics result in.
It’s a really charming trailer that highlights the performances by Christmas and Robinson. It’s funny and romantic and kind of silly but it sells a compelling story, which is the point.
Online and Social
The trailer pops up after you load the official website and, yeah, take a couple minutes and rewatch it just to see how good both Christmas’ and Robinson’s performances appear to be. That unfortunately is half the site’s content, with the other half being a pretty well-written “About” section that offers a good synopsis of the story.
The movie only had a Facebook page where the studio shared tips on being a gangsta, trailers and clips and lots more promotional items. No Twitter, but it did share space on the A24 studio profile.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing in this category that I’m aware of, though it’s very likely I’m missing some online advertising, either on the general web or on social networks.
Media and Publicity
The movie had a well-received coming out party at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it earned kudos for both Robinson’s and Christmas’s performances as well as being a novel take on the “coming of age” story formula.
Robinson talked here about why he was attracted to the story, including how it showed a father/son relationship he didn’t usually see in movies and elsewhere along with how he liked the hip-hop lifestyle portrayed in the story.
Just before release there was a wonderful profile of Christmas that covered how he got this role as well as his sometimes reluctant acting career and more.
This is one of those campaigns that coasts by on the charming, wonderfully unique nature of the premise and the characters. The trailer is well cut and the poster is fine, but it leans heavily on the breezy feeling of the story and the characters and is all the better for it. Christmas and Robinson play well off of each other, as it’s shown here and that’s the big draw, to come see that dynamic, especially from the unknown quantity of Christmas. It’s one of those campaigns that has an immediately identifiable attitude and style that sets it apart from the rest of the pack.
Which is what makes me wish it were hitting digital distribution platforms sooner or getting a wider release. This is an original story with some really interesting characters and messages and the limited release it’s likely getting means it runs the risk of being forgotten by the time it hits additional theaters or home video so more people can see it. Not that the campaign has gone far and wide – it’s relying on word-of-mouth more than advertising – but if enough people are talking about it and praising it, which seems to be the case, it could be one of those little movies that makes a big impact.