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American Violet

Gail Choice | 4/15/2009, 5 p.m.

Hollywood, CA -- "American Violet" is one of the most disturbing films you will see this year.

Based on a true story, this film tells the astonishing story of Dee Roberts, a 24 year-old African American single mother of four young girls living in a small Texas town who is barely making ends meet on a waitress' salary and government subsidies.

This movie touches your spirit on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to start, that's why the above paragraph is straight from studio notes. It's hard to believe that in 21st century America, citizens have little or no rights when they are poor and disenfranchised and happen to live in a low income area infested with drug sales and abuse.

This expertly written and directed film takes you into a world where human rights don't mean a thing. The excellent cast which includes Alfre Woodard, Charles S. Dutton, Will Patton and Xzibit delivers performances that leave you holding their breath, concerned for their safety, or that they get what's coming to them.

Dee Roberts, excellently played by newcomer Nicole Beharie, without notice or warning was arrested on her job by two police officers who handcuffed her in front of the whole restaurant.
Dee, with no criminal record of any kind thought she was being arrested for unpaid parking tickets. Little did she know that earlier that day, while she was at work heavily armed police raided the town's low income housing project where Dee and her family lived. Of the 30 people arrested that day, Dee's name was also on the list. Dee was charged as a drug dealer.

Dee was indicted based on the uncorroborated word of a single and very shaky informant who had the crap beat out of him by police before he gave up the names. She's offered a choice; plead guilty and go home as a convicted felon or remain in prison and fight the charges. Mind you she's already struggling, and if it wasn't for her mother, played by Alfre Woodard who also lives in the projects and willingly takes care of her children, she would have been forced to plead guilty even though she's innocent just for the sake of her children.

When Dee refuses to plead guilty she also risks the chance of jeopardizing custody of her children and risking a long prison sentence. Dee's ex, played by Xzibit is a drunk, abusive weak man, living with a woman who is a convicted child molester and he wants to take the kids from her.

While in jail Dee stands by and watches her fellow neighbors take the plea, Dee learns even more disturbing information which strengthens her to stand firm and refuse to be bullied by the law.
Everyone concerned urges her to take the plea, including her mother. But as fate would have it, help is on the way.

Unlikely alliances develop between an ACLU attorney (Tim Blake Nelson) and a former local narcotics officer (Will Patton) and against all odds they take on the American justice system.
Because, according to the system, what is happening to Dee and thousands like her is perfectly legal. Most people don't fight back, and in the end lose more than their freedom.

Dee's actions to fight back are unheard of and the local law is taking notice. In short, the District Attorney (Michael O'Keefe) was making her life a living hell. He'd show up on her job and the next thing you know she's fired, and the smallest infraction would land her in jail. Her being a "sister-girl" and fighting all types of evil, had a tendency to go off, and her "ex" knew all the right buttons to push.

"American Violet" is an extraordinary story of personal courage, people combining forces to fight injustice, and it rips the cover off a judicial system that openly discriminates according to race and economics. Over two million Americans are in prison. More than 90% of these convicts accepted a plea bargain.

"American Violet" is a must see, in theaters Friday.

- Gail Choice can be reached at gailchoice@strictlyhollywood.com.