Yet Chris Morris’ latest very dark comedy is based on just that: 100 true stories. They informed the plot, which follows Moses Al Shabaz (Marchánt Davis), an impoverished preacher who yearns to build a movement which will solve the poverty and violence he sees around him.
When his sermons are broadcasted on Facebook Live, they’re spotted by FBI agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) and her supervisors, who are desperate to stop the next 9/11, even if it means stitching Moses up in the process.
Morris was able to draw on 100 stories for the project, but there was one in particular that resonated with him. That of The Liberty City Seven.
In 2006, seven men were accused of “plotting to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago in the name of Islamic jihad.” However, their lawyers said they weren’t agents of Al Qaeda but simply men framed by the government.
According to the lawyers, they “did have a mission, a benign one, to minister to their community, teaching religion and martial arts from a dank building. Their only crime… was trying to extort money from the informer, who presented himself as a Qaeda agent with deep pockets.” (Via the New York Times.)
Speaking to EW, Morris described the case: “I remember the way it was presented on the news: As some grand triumph for the FBI thwarting this terrible plot. But as it transpired, it was just seven construction workers trying to talk themselves up to get money being offered by an FBI informant. I met some people involved in the case, and slowly began to realise that this was a repeat activity for the FBI.”
Indeed, the Attorney-General at the time called the plot “more aspirational than operational” and the FBI had to buy them things like boots to wear, and cameras to take pictures of their alleged target. When they presented the undercover FBI agent with a list of equipment, they didn’t include any explosives or any materials which could be used to make explosives (via Democracy Now).
So although The Day Shall Come feels like an absurdist comedy, it has its roots in truth. In addition to The Liberty City Seven, star Marchant Davis cited “the story of MOVE and what happened to them back in the ‘80s. That was my jumping-off point and where my interests lay.”
In 1985, police in Philadelphia dropped a huge bomb on a residential neighbourhood where members of a fringe black radical group called MOVE were living. They killed 11 people, including five children.
In a press release, Morris said his film “reflects how institutionalised paranoia corrupts our thinking. Throughout the West, the Global War on Terror, now so baked in it no longer requires a name, has eroded freedoms it was declared to protect.
“The film tells the story of a person walking blind into a false reality programmed to blow up in his face. That person is a fringe preacher called Moses. The false reality is created by the FBI and written like a script. Moses has no idea this is happening.”
Similarly to the story of the Liberty City Seven, Moses is offered cash – in the movie, it’s to save his family from eviction. He has no idea his sponsor works for the FBI, and the FBI plans on turning him into a criminal by fuelling his revolutionary dreams.
The Day Shall Come is out in cinemas on Friday, October 11
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