Crown Heights is a politically charged film, with intensity running through every moment. It is based on the story of Colin Warner, a man sentenced for the murder of a person he had never met and who ended up spending 21 years in jail for a crime that he did not commit. Knowing this harrowing fact makes the narrative punch harder, as the audience recognises that this frustration and injustice is a real occurrence. This story is the prime example of institutional racism, on all fronts, including the police and a justice system that is designed for mass convictions and to ensure incarceration.
One striking motif seen throughout Crown Heights is the memories that Colin experiences when imprisoned. They are shot with a beautiful haze that gradually becomes clearer, perfectly encapsulating the impact that memory has on a person. Images such as these are positioned to create an intense emotional impact – shots of Colin running circles in what can only be defined as a cage in prison are juxtaposed with thoses of him as a child running on the beach in Trinidad, showing us the stark contrast between reality and his dreams – also highlighted when he wakes up saying, “Please let me not wake up in a cell”.
As an audience we feel the same lack of power felt by the protagonist. There is a dominant sadness evoked, stemming from a feeling of hopelessness, and although this story has a happy ending we are reminded that of the 2.4 million people in jail in America it is predicted that 120,000 people are innocent. One of the hardest points of the film comes when Colin himself has given up hope of ever getting out of prison, a moment that is incredibly portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield. The movie’s screen time is spilt between Colin and his friend Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha), who both give outstanding performances.
At one point Colin asks why Carl is continuing to fight and he makes the statement that “It’s not just about you, it’s bigger than that”. The same idea can be said about Crown Heights itself; it is not just a thought-provoking and intense dramatic narrative that draws the audience in, but is also an important insight into a very unlawful legal system.
Crown Heights does not have a UK release date yet.
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