I wasn't sure what to really expect when I went to see Leroy. All I knew was the brief description published on the SIFF website, which read, "Leroy is young, German, and black. Blond Eva falls for him and introduces him to her five nasty skinhead brothers and right-wing parents. Leroy has a lot to learn…about Eva, sex, and black power. With tongue-in-cheek dialogue and charm to burn, Leroy is refreshing in its romantic comedic approach to racism." It sort of sounded interesting - but it was hard to imagine someone could get all those factors together and make it work. Thankfully this film largely clicked for me, and I laughed more here than possibly at any other film this year at the festival.
Leroy is a very talented young man, plays the cello, clearly does well in school, etc. His parents are an eccentric inventor (dad) and involved in local government (mom). He meets Eva pretty early in the film and after a few cute "will they get together" moments they of course do. Not a lot of suspense there. Leroy hears from folks that Eva's parents are "right wing" but even he's a bit surprised when he goes to pick her up. The family is unabashedly racist from the moment one of the kids meets him at the door. As described all of her brothers are racist skinheads and the father is a local politician for the National Front. The movie plays this mostly for ridiculous comedy - but at times it all felt uncomfortable with the extremely racist things being addressed to the main character over and over again. Leroy responds mostly with sharp comments vs. an instinct towards violence - and he's either the calmest most laid back high school student on earth or the situation is supposed to be so bad that the various slurs are expected by him. The director when speaking afterwards indicated that such racism was prevalent in Germany, so maybe that latter explanation is intended (but the film works either way). Reviewing it mostly as a piece of entertainment I'll skip over that for the rest of the writeup. Just be aware there's very, very strong racial slurs used repeatedly. And it's not a translation issue as the German used is pretty much the same as the English.
As Leroy tries to figure out what to make of his growing relationship and the family conflicts it's creating he also stumbles across some folks that start to teach him about the black power movement in the US - and of course this being a film the Blacksploitation films. The director has a lot of fun with this as Leroy somewhat crosses his natural persona with some of the style cues of Shaft.
As I've mentioned the film is a lot of fun. I'm not sure it's going to have a lot of insight into race relations for US audiences, but as a romantic comedy it did work for me. One small quibble - I wish they'd subtitled the German language rap that plays through some of the scenes. You can get the idea from context but it would have been nice to follow that part too.
Below I've posted an interview with the director done as part of SIFF. I haven't had a chance to watch it through myself. But based on the quality of the Q&A I was at I suspect he'll have some interesting things to say.