by Maryam Abdul-Quaiyy
“This is the true story of America. We are not all racists, whether Black or White,” stated an audience member in response to the film “Deadline,” inspired by the true story of the unsolved case of an African-American teenager who was shot and killed in rural Alabama.
“This film was a phenomenal piece particularly with the recent Trayvon Martin case happening right now. We are hopeful that the same justice will be found,” the audience member said.
|CAST AND DIRECTOR—Some of the cast members: Gerry Haynes, Cathrine Phillips, Anna Felix, Cheryl Biggs and movie director Curt Hahn. (Photo by Gail Manker)
The film premiered in Pittsburgh on March 29 at the AMC Lowes Movie Theater in Homestead. It follows two White journalists, Ronnie Bullock (Eric Roberts) and Matt Harper (Steve Talley), both of whom not only investigate and discover evidence to reopen the case, but also receive death threats by bigoted locals.
The screenwriter, Mark Ethridge, who also wrote the book “Grievances” that inspired the making of the film, commented, “How do we respond as a society when something like this happens? Officials didn’t respond. It took the press and the public.”
So many audience members, out of curiosity, asked if the film was related to the Trayvon Martin case. “We planned for the release of this film last year. We in no way want to use this film to capitalize off that young man’s death. This is literally a coincidence,” said Curt Hahn, the director of the film.
“The truth does not have two sides to it,” said one of the lead journalists in the film. This may seem apparent to those who find the film resonant with the current events involving 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African-American high school student who was shot and killed on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The case is still being investigated and his killer, George Zimmerman, has not been arrested.
On March 29 at 7 p.m., before the premiere of the film, Adrienne Young, who lost a son due to a violent attack in 1994, spoke briefly about her Tree of Hope organization. “Many of us are still healing,” she said, in reference to the family members present and still in mourning. Tree of Hope assists those who have lost loved ones to a violent and unjust death.
The film begins in rural Alabama, as young Wallace Sampson (Romonte Hamer) bids his girlfriend goodbye, walks several feet away only to be shot and killed. “It was just another Black kid in the wrong place,” a line mentioned throughout the film by several characters. This resonated with audience members as some shouted in agreement that this still happens, today, all across America.
There were also times during the film when racist slurs such as, “Nigger kid” and “Nigger lover” were used to describe those assisting in the investigation. During the film the journalists encountered these slurs, threats and no support from the legal system. This also resonated with the audience as they groaned in disappointment that such slurs were still being used to threaten others.
“I hope that this movie is shown in schools,” Hahn, the director of the film, commented. “Because it shows how we as a society should respond to something like this.”
“We all have biases and prejudices and I think this film will open up a discussion,” Ethridge said. “I believe this is a movie that will change you.”
Pastor Keith Edmonds, the host of the premiere, asked the audience what other film “Deadline” reminded them of. (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Mississippi Burning!”) Another audience member commented “We’ve come a long way, but even now we have a long way to go.”
The film has a scene of a White and Black child making amends and for some it is a symbol of hope for the future of race relations in this country.
Hahn, Ethridge, and actors Anna Felix and Clay Brocker are on the Deadline Premiere Tour, traveling by bus to promote the film. The tour commenced on Feb.15 and will end on April 20 in Knoxville, Tenn.
The film will be premiering in other cities this weekend, Tampa, Fla, Atlanta, and Indianapolis. How well the film does in these cities will determine how many theaters across the country it will premiere in nationally on April 13.
(For more information on show times, visit http://e2.ma/webview/lak5b/aa9b997d87b50ea434b8aa04a36d0bfa.)