Chiwetel Ejiofor’s sophomore directorial feature was one close to his heart.

The actor/director helms biopic “Rob Peace,” an adaptation of Jeff Hobbs’ bestselling biography “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace” about a Newark native who went on to graduate Yale with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Rob also worked as a full-time drug dealer and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars selling marijuana while on scholarship at the university.

Producers Antoine Fuqua and Rebecca Hobbs contacted Ejiofor to direct the adaptation almost a decade after Ejiofor first encountered the biography. During the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, Ejiofor told IndieWire’s Executive Editor, Film Kate Erbland that he hopes the film brings more attention to drug reform and the criminal justice system.

“There are so many different aspects of the film, and one of the first things is to highlight the sequence of issues because people try to simplify this stuff a lot of the time,” Ejiofor said. “Rob is three years younger than me, so I definitely feel his presence a lot. He’s a very bright, intelligent guy and I imagine in the room with us right now. And he’s not here, and the reasons he’s not here is because of this complex system that he was sort of brought into.”

Ejiofor continued, “All that intersection is criminal justice, education, where all of these things meld together. He finds himself sort of trapped. The world we live in now is all about attention, what has your attention. As long as we have the attention, then we can really enact changes. Too often, these kinds of issues are being dismissed.”

Actress Camila Cabello, who co-stars in the film, said that she believes “Rob Peace” will allow for “greater empathy and compassion” from those who see it. “The world we live in can be so judgmental, and like success and failure can be looked at as so binary,” Cabello said. “It’s so much more complex than that.”

Actor Jay Will, who plays the title role of Rob in the film, explained how the movie is “a story of truths, and it’s a relatable story. Rob’s story is reflected in so many people.”

Check out the full interview above and see the review of the film here. The film premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and is currently seeking distribution.

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival runs January 18 to 28, with festival talks taking place January 19 to 26. See the full list of IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, lineup here.

Dropbox supports and champions independent makers, crews, and teams behind the camera who bring their unique perspectives to life at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re proud that over 60% of films at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival leveraged Dropbox in their filmmaking process.It takes a monumental effort for film projects to go from ideation to completion, and Dropbox is dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects across the finish line faster. Filmmakers used Dropbox as one organized homebase to keep video files secure, to remotely collaborate with teams around the world, and to get real-time video feedback with Dropbox Replay.

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