Matt Damon Explains How Suburbicon Shows The ‘Definition Of White Privilege’ At Work

Paramount Pictures

George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, Suburbicon, saw its debut at the Venice International Film Festival on September 2 and will play at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. Both he and Matt Damon, Suburbicon‘s star, see a disturbing thread between the dark plot of the movie and current events—and specifically how it’s tied to the violent clash between white supremacists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

Damon’s character, Gardner, lives in Suburbicon, a town “built with the promise of prosperity for all,” and his life and family are both fractured forever when strangers break into his house and his wife is killed in the horrible ordeal. Suburbicon becomes less of a town with optimistic potential for the people who live there and more of a nightmarish powder keg of a place in the days that follow. When people of color move into the predominantly white community, the ensuing madness is blamed on them instead of on Gardner, who’s directly responsible for the rising tension (and bodycount).

“It’s kind of the definition of white privilege when you’re riding around your neighborhood on a bicycle covered in blood murdering people and the African American family is getting blamed for it,” Damon told The Hollywood Reporter. “We couldn’t have predicted obviously when we were filming these race riots, that we would have something like Charlottesville. It does speak to the fact that these issues have not and are not going away until there’s an honest reckoning in our country.”

Clooney was inspired by the racist, xenophobic rhetoric he heard in campaign trail speeches that involved “building fences and scapegoating minorities.” “I started looking around at other times in our history when we’ve unfortunately fallen back to these things, and I found this story that happened in Levittown, Pennslyvania,” he said. “The idea of juxtaposing these two was to say, you’re looking in the wrong direction if you’re blaming this African American family for all your woes.”