Saturday, January 19, 2019

Film Review – Crown Heights: Please Don’t Let It Be A Cell.

August 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Ent., News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.comPlease don’t let it be a cell – is the incantation that will ring in your ears when you leave the theater after watching Crown Heights. But it is – it is a film about a black man who spends 21 years, a lifetime, where he does not belong – in a cell.

Movies make people feel good. It does not matter what genre. The communal experience of sitting in a, almost always, chilled theater to watch stories unfold is priceless, or about $12. Well, I arrived two hours early to an 8pm free screening of Crown Heights, where limited tickets were handed out at 7pm, to discover the line had already been formed by cinephiles who, like me, were ambitious to cop their ticket and chance to meet the creators of this brave and timely film about Colin Warner, a black man wrongfully accused of murder in 1980/90’s Brooklyn (War on Drugs – Reagan/Clinton era), because there is no better time to examine the cruelty of injustice than today when exclusivism is rampant among us.

Engaged in mechanics and petty theft, Colin Warner (LaKeith Stanfield in a break through role) is a bright eyed eighteen-year-old West Indian Brooklynite with aspirations to visit Africa when we meet him. He is quick; and he even charms a woman before he is violently taken into custody and pinned with another man’s crime – it’s murder. The fight for justice ensues in a rapid series of events initiated by Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha), a friend of Warner who sacrifices all to see his brethren free – a la the biblical story of David and Jonathan where a covenant between two men ultimately dismantles a corrupt kingdom, but be advised this is based on a true story that resurrects itself in the raw performances given by Stanfield and Asomugha, who is also a producer of the film.

Both Warner and King have significant others – wives even; but this is a bromance indefinitely. It is a story about an unbreakable tie between two black men – a bond strong enough to break the apparently sloppy system of injustice that separated them. When Colin is released to his wife after nearly a quarter-century you will peer in the background for Carl because this is the well developed relationship on screen. It is the one you can feel.

Colin Warner and Carl King were indeed present at the talk back – and to hear them speak is to know they had a strong hand in developing the script. And it is a story, like Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, that works to document the nuances of communities of American people of African descent in order to raise and maintain awareness of our humanity.

Written and Directed by Matt Ruskin, Crown Heights opens Friday at the IFC Manhattan – running time 99min.

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