01 July 2010

American Violet...

I have not done a movie review for a while. There is good reason for this, I have not watched any movies! Doing a Masters is always a lot of work I am told. I am doing it in accelerated mode, so I am doing a 150% load. Anyways, enough with the excuses and back to the review.

I am not sure what made me pull this movie out of the pile of 50 or so that arrived home with my parents after their recent jaunt to Bali. But, I like Will Patton as an actor, and I saw his mug shot on the cover of the DVD and thought, why not? Besides, there was the added attraction of it being supposedly based on real events. And, it was about how the law can be used and abused by those with an agenda. I did a law degree because I wanted to help those less fortunate and those who always become the victims of those in power who seek to use and abuse the power that they have been given.

The film was American Violet.

The film shines the cold, hard spotlight on race relations in the US. It is particularly scathing in terms of the portrayal of power and how that power is used to racially profile and discriminate. It was also interesting to hear that in the US somewhere in the vicinity of 85% of all criminal cases end with a plea deal (personal note: go check this out). It is a scary statistic in that plea deals often force innocent people to plead to crimes they did not commit in order to avoid a much harsher penalty. Yes, I am sure there are figures out there that show that people who have committed serious crimes exploit the plea deal system to garner a lighter sentence than they deserve. But, it is my review!

For me, this was an excellent film. It was powerful and simple in its depiction of racism. It was equally powerful in terms of its message, little people can sometimes beat the odds and win. It is not a movie that everyone will enjoy, but you cannot please everyone all of the time.

The film is based on a raid of a poor black housing project in Arlington Springs (Texas) in 2000. The raid for drugs was based on the grand jury testimony of a single informant. The raid ensnares single mum, Dee (Nicole Beharie). Dee is accused of selling drugs in a school zone which sees her facing somewhere between 15 and 26 years in prison. Ultimately, the District Attorney offers her a plea deal; a ten-year suspended sentence. To get this deal she must plead guilty. A guilty plea has significant repercussions, not only is Dee a felon if she does, but she is also likely to lose any benefits that she receives. Dee chooses to fight.

However, she is not in this fight alone as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appears and offers to take her case as a means of highlighting the racist nature of the raid. In essence, the case becomes a significant test case on racial profiling and the use of single informants in grand juries to secure arrest warrants, at least in Texas.

This is a movie with a feel good ending. Although, the end credits include a note that the District Attorney who is responsible for Dee' predicament manages to secure re-election to the position of DA. So, despite the feel good nature of the ending, the reality remains that obviously a vast majority of the voters in the relevant area seemingly agree with the vision of the DA.

I recommend the movie (not that this means anything in the grand scheme of things). It is an enlightening and entertaining 103 minutes.

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