Toronto International Film Festival Day 8

Posted 15 September 2017

black cop

                             

For my final day at the festival I saw two very different films tackle a similar subject: racism in the USA. The first, Kings, is Deniz Gamze Erguven's follow-up to Mustang, a film that was a major arthouse success last year. The Turkish-French director has turned her attention the LA riots of 1992 that erupted when all four policeman accused of the Rodney King beating. Erguven is not only making her first film in English but she has two major stars heading up the cast; current James Bond, Daniel Craig and former Bond girl, Halle Berry. Berry is a foster mother who looks after an unruly tribe of children of all shapes, sizes and colours whilst working several part-time jobs to make ends meet. Craig is her neighbour. a writer and apparently  the only white man in Compton. An immediate link to Mustang is the depiction of the raucous family life in this household with Erguven quickly allowing the children to establish their individual characters. The Rodney King trial is constant background to the events onscreen, with a TV always on and the daily reporting of the trial inescapable.

Berry's oldest ward, Jesse (Lamar Johnson), is a reflective and intelligent youth who keeps away from gangs and crime but through his infatuation with local wild child Nicole he is drawn into the world of petty crime. When the four officers are acquitted the anger spills over and the final section of the film is a dazzling and impressionistic recreation of the riots unflinchingly showing the violence but also the bizarrely humorous aspects of the breakdown of law and order such as the local Burger King manager convincing the mob not to burn it down by dishing out free happy meals to all. The film has many visually gorgeous moments and Berry gives a powerhouse performance; Daniel Craig was less convincing and further shows that he cannot do an American accent if his life depended on it. An interesting second film from a director of great promise, I look forward to her next one with great anticipation.

My last film was Canadian filmmaker Corey Bowles debut feature, Black Cop, a micro-budget movie about a nameless black police officer, played by Ronnie Rowe Jr. slowly losing his mind. On his final day in the job before retiring he goes on a revenge spree by treating white people exactly how black people are treated by white cops. Much of these encounters is filmed with a bodycam and this gives them an uncomfortably realistic ambience. The black cop does such things as question a jogger as to what he is running from and if he has any ID on him - it is not long before he is using his nightstick on him. Similarly, a young middle class couple are pulled over for a minor driving offence and by the end of their questioning they have been tazered, handcuffed and given a ticket.

Bowles perhaps tries a little too hard in places to ask if not answer too many questions about the deplorable relationship police and the black population but this is a challenging and knowing film that makes a virtue of its low budget by using creative visual  devices to say an awful lot in the film's short running time. One to look out for.

Martin Carter

Principal Film Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Martin regularly gives lectures and courses at The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield.Read more posts by Martin Carter

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