Monday, October 21, 2013
Most of the films I screen during the 22nd Annual Philadelphia Film Festival will be included in one round-up post at the end of the festival, however, The Suspect, having been made in Philadelphia by first time director Stuart Connelly, deserves its own post, for that reason, and because of the subject matter of race.
We've been examining race history, racial bias and racial profiling a lot in films lately - Django Unchained, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, 12 Years A Slave, rightly so in the face of what's happening in politics - so much of the opposition President Obama faces is not because he's a Democrat, it's not because of his policies, it's because it's coming from the mouth of a man of Color, not even an actual black man, yet it's still an issue for those in Washington.
The Suspect is clever on many levels, but mostly because the context becomes the subtext as the movie progresses. In other words, you think it's a movie about a black man (Mekhi Phifer) being held for suspicion of a crime in a small, rural, all white town, being interrogated by racist cops. The film begins in that dingy cell and we're all held there for a good bit, until one line of questioning from the cop takes the prisoner to a flashback; little by little the flashbacks pull together a scenario that turns the plot into a psychological heist thriller, having almost nothing to do with race, except for the fact that the psychology only works because of racial stereotyping.
I really enjoyed meeting the writer/director Stuart Connelly and his wife Mary Jo Barthmaier who is also the producer of the film at the opening night party. (pictured below)
|Joan Bressler GPFO, Mary Jo Barthmaier Modoc Spring Production Stuart Connelly|
They wouldn't strike you as a couple looking to make a film starring two black characters and having said film premiere at Miami's American Black Film Festival, but just goes to once again demonstrate the old adage, don't judge a book by its cover. And more importantly, to once again remind us, racism is not a black thing or a minority thing, it's a human thing, so any human can add to the discussion and ideally add to the hope.
Connelly was present for a Q&A after the film, one of the things he touch on that I didn't really pick up on while watching the movie, is the fact that he delibertly left the time period kinda vague, there's no cellphone usage, or laptops, but it's not a noticeable absence. The recording equipment for the interrogation looks a bit antiquated, but you wouldn't expect a small town such as this to have anything state-of-the-art. Connelly a writer first and foremost, said he intentionally wanted to tell a story that could be happening now or perhaps 25-30 years ago.
I tried to videotape the Q & A for Tinsel & Tine's Youtube channel, but the lighting was just too bad. I may try to extract the audio at a later point, but for now the burning question of why Connelly felt compelled to write The Suspect can be found in this interview posted to 34th Street:
34th Street: What made you want to make this movie?
SC: I wrote a book with Dr. Martin Luther King’s closest advisor and speechwriter, Clarence B. Jones. I worked on the book for about a year with him, and we got pretty close. He said to me, “Stuart, you should carry on Dr. King’s legacy when I’m gone. In the time we have spent together, you have gotten to understand who this man was, not only what he stood for, but what made him tick. I want to make sure that after I’m gone the world still knows.” I’m a relatively young white guy, and this struck me. I’m not a historian and don’t tend to write non-fiction, but the book, "Behind the Dream", was a success. I wanted to bring attention to Dr. King’s legacy by writing a fictional film script that teaches you and makes you think... READ MORE Katherine Harman 34th Street.com
The Suspect (click for tickets) Screens again during #PFF22 9:45pm Saturday, October 26, 2013 Prince Music Theater.
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