You can watch JUST MERCY for FREE during the month of June

Hello friends… pardon the lack of posts and engagements on the blog lately. I had been doing a lot of reflections lately and kind of avoiding social media. There’s only so much one can take before information overload sets in… it’s a delicate balance between wanting to keep updated about what is going on and processing everything we see & hear and let them sink in.

While protests about George Floyd’s horrendous killing is still going on, with many countries across Europe and Canada showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter, one word we hear more and more lately is systemic racism. Per Wiki…

Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors.

Well, one of the recent films that highlights systemic racism dramatically is JUST MERCY, and if you have not seen it yet by now, Warner Bros has made it available to stream for FREE for the month of June.

Per Variety, WB released this statement: “We believe in the power of story… Our film ‘Just Mercy,’ based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. For the month of June, ‘Just Mercy’ will be available to rent for free across digital platforms in the US.”

I had the privilege of seeing this film at TCFF last year and posted this review. This is an excerpt from what I wrote…

It’s the kind of film that gets you riled up for the blatant racism and injustice that sadly still hasn’t been completely eradicated to this day. The scene where attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) first met Walter McMillian’s (Jamie Foxx) family, greeted warmly by his wife who’s astounded that he’d bother to visit them packs an emotional punch. The film made me want to learn more about the McMillian’s case and others similar to his, as well as the Equal Justice Initiative that Stevenson founded in 1989. For that reason alone, the filmmakers and cast did an admirable job.

I hope you’ll take the time to watch this if you haven’t already… or if you have, this is a film worth rewatching. The topic can’t be more timely than it is now… though learning about such an important history shouldn’t just be confined to when there’s a devastating incident.

To make it easy, I thought I’d embed this YouTube link so you can watch it here:


In addition to sharing about this film, USA Today also shared a list of books for kids and adults alike to learn more about anti-racism. I think we all can always benefit for learning more about each other, and make sure these kinds of centuries-old practice of injustice don’t keep getting passed down through generations.


Have you seen JUST MERCY? Let me know your thoughts!

FlixChatter Review: JUST MERCY (2020)

I saw Just Mercy at Twin Cities Film Fest last October, but finally just got around to reviewing it. It ends up being perfect timing given today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day as it’s known in the States), celebrating Dr. King’s birthday. This year it happens to be the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy.

Just Mercy is an extraordinary BOAT (based on a true story) film. Not only because of the powerful and thought-provoking subject matter, but the story is based on a memoir of attorney Bryan Stevenson who’s depicted in the film, with Stevenson himself served as an advisor. That aspects lends authenticity to the story, plus there’s two powerhouse actors bringing it to life: Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson, and Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian, a wrongfully imprisoned black man who’s on death row.

The story starts with Stevenson after graduating from Harvard Law School. Naturally the bright young lawyer could’ve taken a number of lucrative jobs in a big city of his choice. But instead he drives to Alabama to work on people who are wrongly-condemned and not afforded proper representation. His only ally is Eva Asnley (Brie Larson), a young mother working to match lawyers with death row inmates. She was about to give up when she got a call from Stevenson looking to start a legal center for inmates on death row.

As far as legal/courtroom dramas goes, Just Mercy perhaps isn’t the most accurate. I talked to an attorney friend of mine after the screening and he noticed a bunch of glaring inaccuracies in the courtroom scenes. Be that as it may, for most people who aren’t in the legal field, I don’t think we’d ever notice those. What the movie has going for it is the emotional impact. The flashback scene that shows an encounter between Walter and the town sheriff who obviously deems Walter guilty before he does or say anything. “You don’t know what you’re into down here in Alabama, when you’re guilty from the moment you’re born.” – it’s just one of Walter’s gut-wrenching quote that stays with me. By the time we see him in the film, Walter’s already served several years on Alabama’s Death Row, having been accused of murdering an 18-year-old white dry-cleaning clerk.

It’s the kind of film that gets you riled up for the blatant racism and injustice that sadly still hasn’t been completely eradicated to this day. The film mentioned the fact that Walter had an affair with a white woman automatically made him a suspect, despite having a strong alibi that he was nowhere near the location of the crime, and dozens of witnesses were with him at the time of the murder. The scene where Bryan first met Walter’s family, greeted warmly by his wife who’s astounded that he’d bother to visit them packs an emotional punch.

Both Jordan and Foxx did an astounding job in their respective roles. It’s clear that the subject matter is personal to them, and it shows. Foxx has shared in several talk shows that his own father was wrongly jailed for seven years for having $25 of illegal substances. What’s most heartbreaking to see is how Walter sort of resigned himself to a death sentence. Even when Bryan assured him he could get an appeal, Walter thought a death sentence a foregone conclusion. It’s no surprise given just how much the rigged system is stacked against them, and that what really happens have no bearing on the jury’s conviction.

The third act consists of conventional courtroom drama stuff. It gets a bit schmaltzy and even plodding at times, but director Destin Daniel Cretton manages to keep the emotional quotient high. Jordan and Foxx really shine on and off the courtroom scenes, but I have to give props to supporting actors Herbert Richardson as Walter’s fellow death-row inmate and Tim Blake Nelson as a career criminal whose false testimony incriminated Walter. Rafe Spall, an underrated English character actor,  is also pretty effective as the District Attorney for Monroe County, a key figure in Walter’s appeal process. If I have to nitpick however, aside from one brief conversation with his mother about wanting to fight injustice, we don’t really get to see just who Bryan Stevenson is and what is he about as a person. I suppose the film’s focus in the fight to free Walter McMillian, but I think his character (and Larson’s) could use some more depth.

Overall, the talented cast elevates Just Mercy slightly above a run-of-the-mill social justice drama. Stylistically, this film is pretty subdued, no dazzling cinematography or cutting-edge camera work to speak of. Even the music isn’t particularly memorable. But in the end, it’s Walter McMillian’s narrative that takes center stage, as it should be because it’s an inspiring, timely story and one that needs to be told. The film made me want to learn more about the McMillian’s case and others similar to his, as well as the Equal Justice Initiative that Stevenson and Eva Asnley founded in 1989. For that reason alone, the filmmakers and cast did an admirable job.


Have you seen JUST MERCY? Well, what did you think?

And the TWIN CITIES FILM FEST 2019 award winners are…

Hello FC readers, it’s Ruth here!

MARRIAGE STORY, JUST MERCY, PREMATURE TAKE TOP HONORS

Noah Baumbach’s critically-acclaimed relationship drama Marriage Story tops 2019 winners. Twin Cities audiences honor local productions 3 Day Weekend & Oh My Stars alongside the empowering beauty documentary A Perfect 14.

So, last night Twin Cities Film Fest announced its 2019 award winners Saturday evening, recognizing films and artists across nine top categories. The 11-day marathon of movies, educational sessions and industry events, which showcased more than 120 titles and facilitated a broader conversation around the social cause of environmental sustainability, named Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story as the Best Feature Film of 2019 (stay tuned for my full review!)

“This is fearless, unshakable filmmaking,” said TCFF Artistic Director Steve Snyder. “And in the captivating performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, we see two of today’s most talented artists confronting the darkness and disorientation of divorce. It’s an unflinching portrayal of disintegrating love, and in the conversations that followed the screening this year at our festival, it was clearly an experience few in the audience will forget.”

Perfect 14 doc

The festival’s top non-fiction award went to A Perfect 14, director Giovanna Morales Vargas’s exploration of the fashion industry, body image, and the world of plus size modeling. Best Short Film went to Alex Reeves’s The Automaton, a period drama set in the late 1800’s about a young widow’s shocking discovery that her late husband was building a sentient machine.

The 2019 Audience Awards went to Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy, a new drama profiling renowned civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and a notable lawsuit in which he fought to free a wrongly condemned death row inmate; Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, an eye-opening documentary that spotlights the influential homoerotic subtext of the classic horror film.

The Best Audience Award for short films went to Oh My Starsa short film from director Cynthia Uhrich (check out my interview with her) set during the Great Depression about one woman’s fight to overcome personal adversity with the help of two friends — one white, one black. The film I helped produce, Master Servant, directed by Julie Koehnen, was the runner up for Best Audience Award.

Actress Zora Howard received this year’s Indie Vision – Breakthrough Performance Award for her searing portrayal of a 17-year-old living out her last summer at home before going to college in the coming-of-age drama Premature. Check out her red carpet interview of Zora and Premature‘s director Rashaad Ernesto Green:


Wyatt McGill
took home this year’s Indie Vision – Breakthrough Achievement Award for his innovative screenplay for 3 Day Weekend, a thriller told through multiple different perspectives, each one offering a different interpretation of the same chain of events.

Albert Magnoli, the director behind Purple Rain, was bestowed with the 2019 North Star Award For Excellence following a special 35th anniversary screening of the film.

The 2019 Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award went to Fairy Tail, directed by Justin and Kristin Schaak.

2019 TCFF Award Winners

Here’s the complete listing of 2019 award winners — you can see the full roster of 2019 TCFF finalists here.

Best Feature Film Award: Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach

The Robert Byrd Best Documentary Award: A Perfect 14, directed by Giovanna Morales Vargas

Best Short Film Award: The Automaton, directed by Alex Reeves

Audience Award, Feature: Just Mercy, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Audience Award, Non-Fiction: Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen

Audience Award, Short Film: Oh My Stars, directed by Cynthia Uhrich

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Zora Howard (Premature)

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement: Wyatt McDill (3 Day Weekend)

The Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award: Fairy Tail, directed by Justin Schaack and Kristin Schaack

2019 North Star Award For Excellence: Albert Magnoli (Purple Rain)

2019 TCFF Changemaker Award: Isra Hirsi and Rosemary Whipple


Thank you for checking out our TCFF 2019 coverage!

Stay tuned for more TCFF film reviews, as well as other new releases!

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST announces 2019 Awards Finalists

Hello FC readers, it’s Ruth here!

It’s the last day of Twin Cities Film Fest and TCFF has unveiled more than 25 finalists for its top awards. Among the 2019 contenders for Best Feature Film are Taika Waititi’s provocative anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbitwhich recently took home the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama Marriage Story starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, Trey Edward Shults’ ravishing family portrait Waves, and Alex Thompson’s Saint Francesa surprising story about a six-year-old who forms a close bond with her deadbeat nanny.

Limited tickets remain available for Waves and Saint Frances, both screening this afternoon.

Other notable 2019 finalists include PrematureRashaad Ernesto Green’s romantic drama nominated for this year’s TCFF Indie Vision Award for Zora Howard’s remarkable lead performance, and Rebecca Stern’s Well Groomeda film that goes inside the world of competitive pet grooming and is nominated for this year’s Robert Byrd Best Documentary Award.

Rounding out this year’s Best Feature Film nominees are Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy, an autobiographical script from star Shia LaBeouf about a young actor’s difficult early years, his struggles to cope with his mental health and his push to reconcile with his father; and Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy, a new drama profiling renowned civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and a notable case in which he fought to free a condemned prisoner on death row.

Actor Bill Murray is serving as a special guest judge for this year’s Comedy Shorts Award. Murray will be choosing his favorite comedic short from the three finalists listed below.

This year’s TCFF slate, which continues to screen in St. Louis Park through Saturday evening, is comprised of more than 120 short and feature films. In recent years, TCFF organizers have prioritized the recruiting of more diverse films and directors to Minnesota; more than 60 percent of the 2019 TCFF program are titles directed or produced by female filmmakers.

2019 TCFF FINALISTS

Best Feature Film: Honey Boy, directed by Alma Har’el; Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi; Just Mercy, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton; Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach; Saint Frances, directed by Alex Thompson; Waves, directed by Trey Edward Shults.

Robert Byrd Best Documentary Film: A Perfect 14, directed by Giovanna Morales Vargas; Gay Chorus Deep South, directed by David Charles Rodrigues; Like Harvey Like Son, directed by Rudy Harris Jr.; The Truth About Marriage, directed by Roger Nygard; Well Groomed, directed by Rebecca Stern.

Best Short Film: Automaton, directed by Alex Reeves; Black Hat, directed by Phillip Guttmann; Grace, directed by Alexia Oldini; Master Servant, directed by Julie Koehnen; Our Transition, directed by Connor O’Keefe.

Thrilled that MASTER SERVANT (pictured above), the historical drama short I produced last year is among the nominees for Best Short!


Indie Vision Award for Breakthrough Achievement: 3 Day Weekend (Writer Wyatt McDill); The Field (Cinematographer Tate Bunker); Last Call (Director Gavin Michael Booth); Olympic Dreams (Writer Jeremy Teicher); Premature (Actress Zora Howard); The Protectors (Visual Effects Supervisor Ben Hughes)

Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedy Shorts Award: Be Right Back, directed by Michael Driscoll; The Do It Up Date, directed by Andrew Barchilon and Emily Ting; Fairy Tale, directed by Justin Schaack and Kristin Schaack.

2019 North Star Award For Excellence: Albert Magnoli, director of “Purple Rain”


Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews in the coming days!