Rated R
94 Minutes
Released August 25

Crown Heights is a very powerful movie. It is based on the true story of Colin Warner’s mistaken 21-year imprisonment, and it hits hard because of the straightforward, non-dramatized way in which director Matt Ruskin tells the story. There are no overdrawn emotional scenes, nor is there a contrived backstory. The style approaches that of a documentary in form and style. The musical score by Mark Di Gli Antoni is excellent. It underscores Warner’s pain and frustration, and augments his dreams of his West Indies childhood, without ever getting in the way of the narrative.

This is a film everyone should see. Most people who have never been incarcerated don’t think about what it’s like “inside.” Warner was an 18-year-old West Indian immigrant living in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn when he was wrongfully convicted of murdering a teenager in nearby Flatbush in 1980. He was sentenced to life in prison. The only good luck Warner had is that his best friend Carl King never gave up the fight to free him. Otherwise he would have certainly have died in prison.

Producer Nnamdi Asomugha (pronounced Nahm-Dee Aso-MU-Wah) is an ex-NFL cornerback with the Oakland Raiders, by way of UC Berkeley. Asomugha was the major force in getting the film made. Asomugha also stars in the film as Carl, the best friend. He endows the role with a calm, emotionally stable, unwavering perseverance. In real life, Asomugha is the Chairman of The Asomugha Foundation, a 501(3)c he founded with his family. This foundation works to support two key programs: Asomugha College Tour for Scholars (ACTS) and Orphans and Widows in Need (OWIN).

After my screening, I spoke with LaKeith Stanfield, who plays Warner. He said that he became so immersed in the role that he would wake up at night from dreams of being chased by police and handcuffed, never knowing the reason why. Stanfield plays the role with a quiet intensity. You can feel the pain behind his eyes. He does an excellent job of portraying the changes in the character mentally and physically as he ages 21 years behind bars.

To attempt to comprehend the fear and life-changing anguish of those incarcerated wrongly is not a new concept. An 18th-century Englishman, William Blackstone, stated “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” In the year 2015 alone, 149 prisoners were exonerated and released from prison. Reasons included “innocent but pleaded guilty,” “no crime was actually committed,” “false confessions,” “official misconduct,” and “death penalty errors.” Often people are wrongly convicted due to false accounts from supposed witnesses. The situation portrayed in this film also reflects the pattern of policing in black communities and incarceration of black men in our country. Watching this movie, it is clear that the lives of the wrongly imprisoned are similar to those who are captured by a cruel dictator as prisoners of war. It’s easy to see why Crown Heights won the Audience Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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