Phoenix’s Romantic Comedy ‘The Unhitch King’ Premieres Friday


A romantic comedy directed by South Phoenix native Irin “Iroc” Daniels will premiere Friday in theaters nationwide.

Phoenix-based “The Unhitch King” follows an aspiring comedian who, after being fired from his job, monetizes his comedic abilities by orchestrating stunts to break up couples.

Starting Friday, Sept. 23, Arizonans can watch it at Harkins Theaters in Metro Phoenix and Tucson.

“Discover Arizona through my eyes”

As a native of Phoenix, Daniels said he wanted his film to capture the essence of the city.

Most of the scenes were shot along Roosevelt Row, and they feature public art elements like the Prince mural near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Street and the nine-story mural in the Ten- James Baldwin’s O-One by South Phoenix artist Antoinette Cauley, a close friend of Daniels.

Rob Kazi plays Delbert in Irin

“A lot of people say Phoenix has no culture because it’s a big melting pot of different people,” Daniels said. “I’m originally from Arizona, which seems like a rarity, so I see Arizona differently. I think I photograph Arizona differently.

“I want people to sit down and experience Arizona through my eyes,” he said.

Daniels brought together local talent to create the film’s all-original soundtrack. It features Phoenix-based artists Miles Prime, Negus Jones and Sam Opoku, as well as Daniels’ son Marquel Deljuan and songwriter and South Phoenix native Arthur “Buddy” Strong, who is currently touring with the Dave Matthews. Band.

Daniels first met many of the film’s star performers when they booked time at his self-service recording studio, which also houses his production company Marmera Films.

“It really brings the city’s arts and culture to life,” said Daaron Battle, the film’s music supervisor.

Battle, who has known Daniels for more than 20 years, is a West Phoenix native and media production director for Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. “We use some of the best artists, producers, directors, writers Phoenix has to offer,” he said. “It really is a movie for the city of Phoenix.”

From music, to education, to cinema

Born and raised in South Phoenix, where nearly all of his family members still live, Daniels initially pursued a career as a rapper. The bridge between his music and film career – teaching – was unexpected.

After graduating from high school, in the early 1990s, Daniels established Iroc Records, which he housed in a studio he rented. Although the studio was close to 27th Avenue and Thomas, “it served everyone in South Phoenix,” Daniels said. “I started recording people and made a name for myself as a good engineer and a good beat maker.”


Daniels’ cousin Ronald Whitehead, who grew up with him in South Phoenix, fondly remembers those days in the studio.

“It became a haven for those of us who come from the streets, because he opened up the studio to different people from different neighborhoods, and everyone got along,” Whitehead said. “I commend him for that because it was something that was very difficult to do at the time.”

Daniels’ background in recording music and creating beats eventually landed him a job running the recording studio on Arizona State University’s West Campus. There, a twist of fate led him to teaching and eventually to film.

One day, a professor in the music department had a car accident and asked Daniels to temporarily watch his orchestration class.

“I didn’t know anything about orchestration,” Daniels said. “But because I was in the rap industry a long time, I knew all about publishing.” He began teaching music copyright classes, and although the professor arrived in time to take over, he asked Daniels to complete the class. .

After the class was over, the professor connected Daniels with a music teaching position at Phoenix College. Soon after, Daniels received a call from Collins College asking him to teach audio for film.

He was eventually asked to teach more classes, including video editing. “That’s how I ended up learning filmmaking, just out of the necessity of having to teach,” Daniels said. He began making music videos, notably for artists 2 Chainz and Juicy J.

“I had videos that ended up on MTV, REVOLT, BET, and that made me want to start writing my own feature films,” he said. He released his first feature film, “Blood Ink”, in 2018. His second film, “The System”, followed soon after.

Both of these films featured people Daniels grew up with.

“He always cared about his community and brought people together,” Whitehead said.

“He’s the perfect example of overcoming obstacles,” Whitehead said. “He stuck to the script. And he tried to get a few people off the street and take them with him. He gave everyone a chance.

In addition to filmmaking, Daniels now teaches a course on DIY content creation in ASU’s popular music department.

“We are going to create our own film industry”

Although the initial idea for “The Unhitch King” came from a short film he worked on years ago with producer and screenwriter Melissa Oldham – who served as the feature’s executive producer – Daniels was also inspired to write the film to fill a void he saw in The Industry.

“There aren’t a lot of African-American romantic comedies that have come out lately,” Daniels said. “And I think it’s important for people to laugh right now, especially after what we’ve come out of in 2020.”

DF Wright, a producer on the film, echoed that sentiment.

“What he created is something I miss,” she said. “A lot of times when I watch African American movies, even if it’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, there’s still a level of trauma involved and it kind of takes away from the comedy or the love.

“It’s refreshing to have a movie that’s funny, and there’s this love, and there’s no trauma,” she said.

To complete the project, Daniels said he strategically chose and contacted theaters across the country to show “The Unhitch King.”

“It’s hard as a black man to break into the film industry here,” Daniels said. “So I was like, ‘Forget it, we’re going to create our own film industry. “”

Visit for the movie trailer and a full list of theaters where the movie is showing.

Madeleine Parrish covers South Phoenix for The Arizona Republic. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @maddieparrish61.


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