press release

Long-awaited Satirical Biopic on Richard Nixon and Sammy Davis, Jr. to Premiere at IFFR


Thee J.X. Williams Archive
c/o Edward Bernays

Hollywood, CA – Eight years in the making, “SammyGate” chronicles the unlikely involvement of Sammy Davis, Jr. in the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon’s presidency. The film will have its world premiere at IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) on Friday, January 24.
Much like Kanye West and Trump a half-century later, Davis used his showbiz glitz to burnish the president’s credibility among a highly distrustful black community.  The effort backfired spectacularly, earning him nearly universal condemnation and dimming his star power for decades.
While this subject alone would provide ample material for a feature, writers Darius James and Noel Lawrence dug even deeper. Using the Davis/Nixon alliance as a starting point, they fabricated an elaborate alternative history in which Sammy triggers a chain of bizarre missteps by the FBI, the Mafia, and the Nixon Administration that result in the Watergate scandal.
“The universe of SammyGate is an absurd one,” Lawrence notes in his Director’s Statement “It’s a bizarro world in which Sammy gets attacked by a club sandwich while tripping on LSD. Or Richard Nixon manifests Satanic powers and speaks in tongues like Linda Blair from ‘The Exorcist.’ Or Louis Armstrong pilots a flying toilet to save Sammy from eternal damnation in Hell.”
Though the film focuses on the past, it speaks loud and clear to a present that obsesses on fake news and impeachment. As cultural critic Michael Gonzales notes, “Through its skillful mix of fact and fiction, SammyGate transforms ‘fake news’ into a fine art. The film presages a digital age in which nothing is true and everything is permitted.
You can view the trailer HERE.
You can view/download the EPK HERE.

89 mins | 2020 | USA
Director: Noel Lawrence
Written by: Darius James & Noel Lawrence

**Director Noel Lawrence and screenwriter Darius James will be available for interviews while at IFFR from Thursday, January 23 to Wednesday, January 29**
For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact Edward Bernays at
About Noel Lawrence
Noel Lawrence makes, curates, distributes, and writes about film.

As alter ego J.X. Williams, Lawrence produced a body of audiovisual work that critiqued institutions and historical discourses of cinema. His films have been showcased at The LouvreIFFRSlamdance, and Thessaloniki.  His provocative work has been featured in The New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Vice as well as a book of collected essays on his filmography, J.X. Williams: Les Dossiers Interdits (Camion Noir, 2010). 

More recently, Lawrence has collaborated on projects with Bootsy Collins and Iggy Pop as well as teaming up with the Luis Buñuel Film Institute on a lecture/presentation on the influence of surrealism in mid-century advertising.  Noel also co-curates the Department of Anarchy film section at Slamdance.
About Darius James
Darius James is an author, spoken-word artist, and expert on African-American folk culture. He is the author of five books. His debut novel Negrophobia (NYRB Classics) was just republished by the New York Review of Books. His follow-up book That’s Blaxploitation: Roots of the Badaasssss ‘Tude (St. Martins) was one of the pioneering works on the Blaxploitation genre of cinema.

After two decades in New York as a freelance journalist, Darius relocated to Berlin, Germany in 1998 where he worked as a radio host and theatre director. James also wrote and hosted The United States of Hoodoo, a road movie that traces the influence of voodoo on daily life and pop culture in the USA. The film premiered on Arte (Germany) in 2012. Currently, he is completing Aunt Katie’s Tales.]