Police brutality, which disproportionally affects people of color, has become perpetually topical in our racially biased society. With countless new incidents coming to light each month, like the recent murder of Botham Jean, we are constantly reminded of the precariousness of black lives in a white supremacist system.
Men of color directly affected by this violence are at the center of director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s debut feature Monsters and Men, a multi-narrative drama where three stories collide in the wake of a black man’s death at the hands of police officers in New York City.
The powerhouse film has its World Premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and stars Hamilton’s Anthony Ramos as Manny, a young Latino trying to get a new job to support his family. One night, while Manny is kicking it with his buddies, he witnesses an altercation between a black man and the cops. Fearing for the man’s safety, Manny records the event, which ends in tragedy. He is left with the tough choice of risking his future by sharing the footage, or being complicit by hiding it.
Emotionally charged throughout, the Monsters and Men trailer also gives us glimpses of the other two storylines. First, there is Officer Dennis (John David Washington), a black law enforcement officer who sees the issue of excessive force from a controversial perspective. The other, is teenaged Zyric (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a talented athlete whose father has lost hope in the possibility of change. “Cities are going to keep burning, kids are going to keep getting shot, and cops are going to keep getting off, ” he tells Zyric in an absorbing moment.
Green’s lyrical sensibilities are projected onto every second of this poignant American tale, and that is reflected in this stirringly constructed peek. One of the unshakable visual metaphors comes in the form of a one-way mirror separating Manny and Dennis, creating the illusion that the two men are looking directly at each other. No matter who is on what side of the glass, their predicaments aren’t as dissimilar they would like to think.
Green, who is half-Puerto Rican and half-African American, talked to Remezcla about the film out of Sundance. “This film is my form of activism, however small,” he shared. “I think that’s really what it’s about. It’s about talking about it, continuing the dialogue, and trying to open people’s minds to an issue that really needs to be talked about. It’s happening all around us, we can’t turn a blind eye to the things that are happening to our people and our community.”
NEON will release Monsters and Men in theaters on September 28.