New American Cinema | 2017 | 96 minutes
Stranger Says:Based on a true story, Crown Heights is a searing film with quality performances and sometimes shaky accents. It reminded me somewhat of Castaway, in the sense of you are away, but not away--life goes on, the world goes on without you. This story of a lower-class black man caught up in the system, has me asking: How often do detectives push for convictions instead of justice? Arrested in 1980, conviction was the outcome for Colin Warner (Keith Stanfield); but the people who never gave up on him, who’s world could not go on without him, specifically his girlfriend Antoinette (Natalie Paul) and devoted best friend Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha, aka Mr. Kerry Washington), along with genuine DIY legal work are what got him through and eventually released after more than two decades. What then, are the costs around the social devastation of racism mixed with shady police work? (DAUDI ABE)
SIFF Says:Adapted from an episode of This American Life, this true story of Colin Warner, who was wrongfully convicted of murder, packs a punch. Matt Ruskin’s sophomore feature follows Warner, played with heartbreaking sincerity by Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Short Term 12), from the moment before he’s accused of murder through the 21 years he serves in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. When Warner refused to cut a plea deal that would require him to admit guilt, his best friend Carl King, impressively played by Nnamdi Asomugha (former Oakland Raiders Pro Bowl cornerback and the film’s co-producer), devotes his life to proving his friend’s innocence. As Warner’s hopes wane, King’s devotion holds strong even as he risks his own family and finances for the cause. Writer/director Matt Ruskin worked closely to earn the trust of the real Colin Warner, and it shows in the film, its emotional authenticity shedding light on a painful, personal story and a horrifying systemic problem. Anchored by Stanfield and Asomugha’s powerful performances, Crown Heights unfolds a story of hope, endurance, and judicial error.
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