Tag Archives: Lakeith Stanfield

“They really care about cinema”: Matt Ruskin talks Amazon, ‘Crown Heights’ and Jeff Sessions

Crown Heights was one of the most buzzed-about films to get picked up by Amazon at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s hardly surprising, given the horrific case of real-life injustice at the centre of its story. Colin Warner (played in the film by Lakeith Stanfield), a Trinidadian, New York-based man, was convicted in the early 1980s for a murder he had absolutely no part in, with almost nothing in the way of evidence, even with the actual guilty party apprehended and also sentenced. Warner got 15 years to life, and was only released after 21 years thanks to the efforts of his friend on the outside, Carl King (played in the film by former NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha), who devoted his life to exposing the shoddiness of the initial case that sent Warner away.

Although Crown Heights is currently in search of a UK theatrical distributor, it’s screening at Sundance London this weekend. We sit down with Matt Ruskin – who wrote, directed and co-produced the film – to discuss bringing a 21-year spanning story to the screen, how his subjects feel about the finished film, his experience with Amazon, and the orange elephant in the room that is the Trump administration…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Advertisements

Crown Heights (Matt Ruskin, 2017)

Adapted, by writer-director Matt Ruskin from an episode of public radio show This American Life, Crown Heights acts as both biopic of one man wrongfully incarcerated for over 20 years and a broader examination of the American justice system and its bias towards imprisoning people of colour. The latter most notably comes about through the insertion of stock footage contextualising the US government’s crime policy developments during the course of the decades the film covers – we see clips of Ronald Reagan declaring that “crime today is an American epidemic”, Bill Clinton signing his 1994 Crime Bill into law, and New York Governor George Pataki delivering an inaugural address that proposed abolishing parole for felons with a history of violence…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015)

The problem with most biographical dramas, particularly those concerning musicians, is that they can often play like greatest hits samplers rather than a cohesive, insightful character study. Some of the best music biopics are those that take a formally interesting approach that feels akin to the spirit of the artist/s in question, rather than trying to box their persona into a rigid formula; Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There is one example, as is the recent Love & Mercy, which offers a dual performance to depict two decades in the life of subject Brian Wilson, but also sonically innovative soundscapes to convey the troubled genius’ artistic process.

This is not to say that the traditional music biopic formula is of inherently dubious quality. As with any genre, execution is key. Straight Outta Compton, a portrait of N.W.A (though mainly members Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E) from director F. Gary Gray, is one such example of the formula done very well. Or, at least, up to a point…

Full review for VODzilla.co