18 January 2000 | wraith-13
One of the best movies you never saw.
In a way, it is easy to see why a movie like Blind Faith was lost in the shuffle; a period piece with an all Black cast that deals with racism. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine why no one has heard of a film this good. It was directed by Ernest Dickerson, long time cinematographer for Spike Lee, and it stars recognizable names, Charles S. Dutton, Courtney B. Vance, Kadeem Hardison and Lonette McKee.
The film was produced for Showtime television, had a very limited theatrical run in 1998 and was nominated for several Independent Spirit Awards. I didn't see the film until 1999, when it played at a Film Festival in St. Louis. When I read the cast list and saw who directed it, my jaw dropped. How had this film escaped my radar? I was even further shocked when I saw it. It is (along with Being John Malkovich and Boys Don't Cry) one of the three best films I've seen in 1999 and one of the most powerful films I've seen since Uli Edel's Last Exit to Brooklyn, ten years ago.
The film is the story of a young Black boy named Charles Jr., a cop's son, accused of murdering a young white boy in civil rights era New York City. He confesses to the crime and refuses to do anything in his own defense, which his uncle John, who is also his lawyer, can't understand. The boy has no history of violence or crime and was basically a quiet unassuming kid.In spite of the lack of cooperation from Charles Jr., John mounts a defense, even though the prosecution seems to have an open and shut case and is pushing for the death penalty. To give away more would be as big a crime as revealing the plot twists at the climax of The Sixth Sense or Fight Club.
What makes this movie so great is its subtlety and its realism. The Black characters are not saints and the white characters are not demons. Movies like this tend to sacrifice their power to sentimentality by making the minority characters into martyrs and heroes that are beyond reproach. Also, this film makes us like the white characters, so that when their racism finally shows, it is all the more shocking.Frank Military's script pulls off the difficult task of making us care about a story we think we've seen before, and then lets us know that we haven't seen it before. This movie is so much more powerful than preachy, Hollywood stuff, like Ghosts of Mississippi, that it eclipses those films completely. This is a hard hitting story of race and justice that all Americans need to see.