Nicole Beharie (The Express), Will Patton (Entrapment, The Postman), Charles Dutton (TVs Roc, Mimic) and Alfre Woodard (TVs Desperate Housewives, Primal Fear) star in this gripping true-life story. Falsely accused of distributing narcotics in a school zone, Dee Roberts (Beharie) is offered a deal she cant refuse plead guilty and accept a 10-year suspended sentence. The alternative risk serving 16-to-25 in jail. Realizing a conviction would ruin her life, Dee decides to fight back. Suing the DA for racial discrimination, Dee battles impossible odds in a case that will not only change her life but the laws of Texas as well.
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I was very skeptical of this movie at first, particularly since it starred a newcomer. American Violet shocked me! I actually went back to see it twice last week. Nicole Beharie did a superb job playing the character of Dee, a strong woman who took on the Texas justice system. The story was moving and the acting was great. Will Patton and Alfre Woodard did not disappoint either, as they never do. This film is a sleeper, definitely one not to miss!!!
I was honored to have the opportunity to catch a screening of AmericanViolet's Texas premiere at the Paramount Theatre during Austin's SXSWFilm Festival. The film tells the important story of Dee Roberts drugarrest in Melody, Texas in 2000. The story of the abuse of power by thecriminal justice system is an important one that most Americans are notterribly familiar with. The story is generally well-acted andcompelling as we are drawn through the story of Dee's clearly falsearrest and prosecution. The line between fact and dramatic license doesremain a little foggy and there is particularly unbelievable scene inwhich the local district attorney acts as some sort of family courtjudge who oversees a hearing to determine the custody of Dee's 4children.The legal focus of the film does tend to bounce around from one issueto another Â the problem of forced plea bargaining, the misuse ofFederal drug task forces, the use of dishonest informants, the problemof fighting a "war on drugs," and finally focusing on blatant racism ofDistrict Attorney. All of these issues are certainly present in thecriminal justice system, but the relationship and role of each is oftenconfusingly presented and blurs the legal focus of the film.Nevertheless, the story remains powerful and the presentation is apotent one.Regardless of the limitations, some of which are inherent in thecriminal docudrama, the film is well worth seeing, because of theimportant story that it tells about complex interaction between race,poverty and the criminal justice system that is often obscured from theview of much of the American public. The film deserves to be seen bythose who still doubt the critical role of racism in American society -particularly in the criminal justice system.
This review is from: American Violet (DVD) This is a great movie and I would recommend that you add it to your dvd collection. It shows just how a single mother stood up to the law when she was wrongfully accused of selling drugs. She put everything on the line including risking the fact of losing her kids to prove her innocence. LOVED IT!
Movies based on true stories seldom give us a taste of the characters life, they present the story in a style that shows one version. Most of the time we buy into that, but in "American Violet" we see the story unfold and play out, and then we see the struggle the characters go through. Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) works in a small diner, she has been there seven years, the owner is a white woman who thinks the world of Dee. District Attorney Calvin Beckett (Michael O' Keefe) wants results for his drug task force. Alma Roberts (Alfre Woodard) lives in the same housing project that Dee does, and watches Dee's three children. Also in the same project is the father of two of Dee's little girls, Darrell Hughes (Xzibit). Dee doesn't want the girls around Darrell because he lives with a woman accused of child molestation. Beckett has the drug task force raid the projects one morning, they drive up in U Haul trucks and make several arrests. Then they go into the diner where Dee is at work and arrest her. She thinks it's because of unpaid parking tickets, the owner offers to pay the tickets for Dee. When Dee is taken before the court she is given a public defender, David Higgins (Paul David Story), we all know the case loads of public defenders are astronomical, but this guy seems to be in the dark. Dee is wrongfully arrested for drug trafficking near a school. When she meets with the public defender and the states attorney they offer her a bargain, plead guilty and get a ten year suspended sentence. She feels this is something she can't do. Alma goes around to the town's people and asks them to sign a petition to lower Dee's bail, Reverend Sanders (Charles S Dutton) brings in an ACLU lawyer, David Cohen (Tim Blake Nelson) and his aide Byron White (Malcolm Barrett). Their first order of business is to get the former assistant DA Sam Conroy (Will Patton) to help sue not only the drug task force but the police AND District Attorney Calvin Beckett. They tell Dee that pleading guilty will result in her being thrown out of her home and maybe losing her children. Dee decides to not take a plea bargain in her case and instead to go ahead and sue the police involved in the raid. The legal focus of the film does tend to bounce around from one issue to another, the problem of forced plea bargaining, the misuse of Federal drug task forces, the use of dishonest informants, the problem of fighting a war on drugs, and than finally focusing on the blatant racism of District Attorney Beckett. All of these issues are certainly present in the criminal justice system, but the relationship and role of each is often confusingly presented and blurs the legal focus of the film. Nevertheless, the story remains true, and their presentation is a potent and powerful one. Alma feels going up against such strong men will backfire for Dee, but having no options at the time she is forced into the suit. Trying to find work Dee goes from place to place, with the arrest on her record, Dee has little choice in job prospects. Finding a job in a Mexican diner Dee thinks things are looking up. One day she returns to find that Darrell has his daughters. Dee freaking out pounds on the door and is taunted by Darrell's girlfriend, Dee running down the stairs starts kicking Darrell's truck, he calls the police and Dee is again arrested, although the ACLU is able to get this charge dropped, it looks bad for Dee. Darrell feels that he deserves to have custody of his daughters and sues Dee for that right. Of course DA Beckett is the judge in family court. In a change of pace Beckett allows Dee to keep her children, while this is going on Sam, Byron and David are holding depositions in Dee's case. They question the lone informant the police used to gather names, they question the police, and even Beckett himself. Throwing a surprise at Beckett, we knew one was coming, Dee's lawyers get her case before a judge that doesn't owe Beckett any favors. Dee wins her case, the drug task force is broken up but Beckett escapes "justice." Beckett runs for reelection and wins, he of course is keeping the town safe after all. I give American Violet a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this movie should be seen, it isn't overly racist, but some of the tones of the movie are. Go enjoy this movie, take your family they may walk away enlightened.
This review is from: American Violet (Amazon Instant Video) The movie "African Violet" offers great insight into how minority and low income populations are vulnerable to being unjustly incarcerated. May all of us interested in criminal justice, public safety, and constitutional rights keep their eyes wide open when electing public officials, especially district attorneys, who claim to uphold these values.
I am shocked at the crummy review Amazon.com gave this movie. Ridiculous! This is an important movie. We must straighten out our legal system. Here is a quote from the end of the movie: The U.S. has the largest prison population. Of the 2.3 million currently in prison, more than 90% accepted plea bargains. Recently, I saw the movie "Convicted," which was another movie based on a true story about a wrongful, unlawful conviction. And I also read John Grisham's latest novel, "The Confession," which is another gripping story about a wrongful conviction, and how the police can coerce confessions. Both John Grisham and Scott Turow, who are bestselling legal thriller novelists (and attorneys) have each written a non-fiction book about wrongful convictions and the death penalty...and they both belong to a group called the Innocence Project, which works to free innocent inmates who have been wrongfully imprisoned. Also, there is a Oct. 2010 book called "Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison," Empire," that addresses the gross inequities in the legal system that have been blueprinted from the harsh and inequitable Texas "justice" system. My respect goes out to all that have the courage to try to bring about very needed changes. Not only are innocent people's lives and the lives of their families terribly affected...but our broken legal and prison system costs billions of dollars.
To see such corruption and poor treatment of Black people at this day and age it is so shameful.It still goes on i am sure. Guilty until proven innocent. Obviously the District Attorney is re elected instead of going to jail.
This review is from: American Violet (Amazon Instant Video) It is difficult to believe that this level of stupidity still exsists in the country but I guess it does...You have to admire the grit of the main character is this movie. 4 kids, barely getting by and sucked into a drug raid by one unsavory "witness" She fought the law and the law didnt win, She refused to take a plea bargain that was a lie and she risked her freedom and her children to do it.Im not usually a huge fan of the ACLU, in their defense of child molestors, but this is the type of case they should fight! This movie kept me engaged the whole time and I wanted her to win.
This was an incredibly good movie. The only problem about it is almost nothing in the film surprised me, even though it was based on a true story, which is even sadder. What did surprise me is the statistic about 90% of people taking a plea bargain to avoid going to prison. I didn't know the number was that high nor did I know about how that would affect other living expenses for low-income households. I wasn't familiar with Nicole Beharie, but she did an excellent job alongside veteran actress Alfre Woodard. The lady who played the sex offender girlfriend played her role to a tea, too, and Xzibit continues to impress me as a rapper-actor. He stands out as one of those musicians who actually is trying to perfect his craft. Great job, great story, and the film didn't last long enough. I wanted more.
This is a movie that needs to be seen more than it has with its limited release. Still - the writing is not the best. The message gets an "A", but it could have been treated a lot better. The actors and the story deserved a better script.
Somewhat preachy, but revealing story of how DAs in rural Texas inparticular and maybe South in general have and use the power to maketheir statistics look good by picking on African Americans. The firsthalf has the ambiance of a taut documentary. Less so after the civillawsuit began. It should have been a civil rights suit in the federalcourt, but this wasn't made clear at first. The deposition scenesreally detracted from the impact, but maybe that's the way depositionsare conducted in Texas. Alfra Woodard as the Grandmother takes the topacting honors. However, the acting was first rate from top to bottom.Jim Madison, Menlo Park, CA
First, the comment that this is a "racist" movie you could only like if you hate white people is sadly ignorant: the movie depicts real facts that, unfortunately, are still going on today, just as they have for generations. To attack a film as "racist" for portraying actual racism is, at best, foolish.That having been said, there is racism (on all sides in American society: white v. black, Asian and brown, black v brown, Asian and white, brown v. black and white, etc.) Personally, I have long felt that blacks, as a group, are far more hostile (i.e., racist) to whites than the other way around. (I say that as a 58 year old white attorney who grew up in a racist household, but who now has two employees, both of whom are extremely intelligent, well-educated black men.) In any event, the film portrays events that actually happened, and to dismiss it because it addresses a current problem is unbelievably shallow. More importantly, the "racism" comment overlooks the fact that the only reason these injustices were addressed and corrected were because of some white attorneys who dared to take a stand. Given the principled actions of those main characters, I'm at a loss to understand the accusation of racism. Besides, "facts is facts" -- and the facts are that in this real-life story, it was white law enforcement targeting blacks.For more info on how pervasive this problem actually is in small towns in Texas, Google the phrase "Driving through Tenaha, Texas, doesn't pay for some". This is the headline of a story that appeared in the LA Times and, under a different title, the Chicago Tribune (which owns the LA Times). It is a chilling story that mirrors the events of "American Violet."Re: American Violet: the entire movie was well done: good script and acting. If "Mississippi Burning" was able to draw large crowds, I don't understand why this film hasn't. I saw this on Friday, 4/24/ at a 7:00 pm showing in a major LA multiplex, and there were only THREE other people in the theater. The WORST thing about this movie is the way that the distributors have not put a DIME into advertising. The only way I knew about the movie was because someone (a black judge with whom I was having a conversation about civil rights) told me to see it b/c it was a good film.BTW, I didn't see Mississippi b/c I knew the ending and remember it from when it actually happened. Unless you belong to the Klan, that was a downer of a movie. In this case, the right folks [pretty much] win in the end.My bottom line: SHAME ON THE DISTRIBUTOR for not advertising this fine film.
Powerfully produced and directed, "American Violet" is a film based onthe racially charged drug war scandal that rocked the town ofHearne,Texas,several years ago,which explores the devastating impact ofAmerica's "war on drugs". Directed by Tim Disney and written by BillHaney,the film has a powerful story to tell,fueled by the powerful castwhich includes Alfre Woodard,Will Patton,Tim Blake Nelson,rapper/actorXzibit(in a electrifying performance),and Emmy Award winning actorCharles S. Dutton.The film,as recounted here,the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit onbehalf of 15 African-American residents of Hearne who were indicted inNovember 2000 on drug charges after being rounded up in a series ofunlawful paramilitary drug "sweeps". These undercover drug busts,whichled to the arrest of 15 percent of the African-American men between theages of 18 to 34 in Hearne,were uniformly undertaken based on theuncorroborated word of a single unreliable confidental informantcoerced by police to make cases. The film centers around Dee(played bynewcomer Nicole Beharie)who works a shift at the local diner. Thepowerful local district attorney(Academy Award nominee MichaelO'Keefe)leads an extensive drug bust,sweeping her Arlington Springshousing project with aggressive military tactics. Police drag Dee fromwork in handcuffs,dumping her in the squalor of the women's countyprison. Indicated based on the uncorroborated word of a single anddubious police informant facing his own drug charges,Dee soon discoversthat she has been charged as a drug dealer. Even though Dee has noprior drug record and no drugs were found on her in the raid or anysubsequent searches,she is offered a hellish choice:plead guilty and gohome as a convicted felon with an attendant loss of her federal andstate rights,thus jeopardizing the custody of her children and riskinga long prison sentence. Despite the urgings of her mother(Oscar nomineeAlfre Woodard),and with her freedom and custody of her children atstake,she chooses to fight the district attorney and the unyieldingcriminal justice system he represents in the state of Texas. Joined inan unlikely alliance with an ACLU attorney(Tim Blake Nelson),and formerlocal narcotics officer(Will Patton),Dee risks everything in a battlethat forever changes her life and the Texas justice system. "AmericanViolet" is a hard-hitting Hollywood blockbuster of a film that tellsthe story of Regina Kelly,one of the people rounded up in a Tulia styledrug bust in Hearne,Texas back in 1999. The Hearne tragedy would havenever have come to light without Tulia in which people took a standagainst the wrongdoings down there in which the people fought for theirrights. The cast here in downright superb including the electrifyingperformance of newcomer Nicole Beharie as Dee Roberts,who took on theState of Texas and won not only her case against her,but her freedom.A gripping and suspenseful and emotional tale that became one of theofficial selected films for the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. And itis one of the year's best from 2008. The movie became the left-rightcombination of a scandal that changed the rules and regulations of thedrug war in the State of Texas.
This review is from: American Violet (DVD) This is a good movie in the message that it gives and as in other cities, Toledo is in need of positive messages to either help someone whom seem to need help or to encourage others that may be in the same situation.
Lead actress Nicole Beharie makes a spectacular film debut here, withpowerful supporting work from everyone involved. The film artfullybrings to the fore serious questions about how the drug war is beingwaged. Based on court depositions and actual events of a specious drugraid based on (minor spoiler ahead) the word of a coerced informant torig conviction stats, this is a wake-up call to anyone who was notaware of the politics of the drug "war". The subplot about the childcustody struggle between the lead and Xzibit's character was alsoharrowing. There is also subtle interaction across racial lines thatshows the complexity of how people interact in the south, particularlyin the initial restaurant exchange between Dee and two patrons andbetween Dee and her restaurant employer. No one here is portrayed as aperfect angel, making the film feel very true to life.
There was almost no time while watching this movie that I did not feel rage, that I did not feel anabiding hatred for the State of Texas and its cowboy attitude of justice. I know that this is not theonly State is which this can happen, but why is it always happening in Texas? The only reason why I don't beg the State of Texas to secede is because there are a lot of good people in the State who wouldhave even less protection should that happen.What does it take to get rid of the rotten element that is so prominent in that state?
I purchased this dvd without knowing any of the back story, but the film provided a great history of the problem at hand. I enjoyed the story line although the acting wasn't the best and some of the scenes appeared to be out of order. American Violet could be useful in classrooms to portray the injustice that can happen in the realm of the legal system. This film also shows the importance of Civil Liberties organizations. Watch this film to see the heart wrenching story that unfolds and how sometimes even the justice system has to be corrected.
I love the true portrayal of this story, its very insight; however well we teach our children to stay on the right side of the law. If this country legal system is being administrated by corrupt individuals, even the straightest of straightest arrows in our community can find themselves caught on the wrong side of our legal system. This movie shows there is a very serious problem in certain cities in our country where the scales of justice clearly unbalance for minorities in particular African Americans. This is a must see for everyone.
This review is from: American Violet (DVD) I was very pleased with this purchase. It was delivered in a timely fashion.
This well-acted and very moving movie is based on a true story of a district attorney and police force that misused the judicial system. It is a story that everyone should know. It occurred in a Texas county that followed the rules that existed throughout the state in the year 2000. The rules allowed police to arrest and indict a person if just one individual claimed, without proof, that the person committed a crime. The DA and police wanted to arrest as many people as possible because counties with high conviction rates - and conviction rates include guilty pleas - receive large amounts of Federal money. So prosecutors threaten innocent people with large jail sentences, as much as twenty years; but, they say, if you plead guilty, we will give you a suspended sentence. The plea agreement gets money for the county, but it makes the innocent pleader a felon, unable to vote or find a job, get welfare, housing, and medicines, among many other problems.This film tells the story of such an innocent victim who was identified as a drug dealer because the informant was told to identify her by his cousin who hated her. She suffered greatly. She was offered a plea or twenty years in jail. She refused because she was innocent and she knew what would happen to her if she became a felon. She spent twenty one days in jail until her poor mother could raise bail. The father of her children demanded custody, although he lived with a child molester, the woman who incited her arrest. She was fired from her job. No one would hire her.But then David Cohen of the ACLU came and asked her to file suit against the DA and the police to change the system. He was helped by a black ACLU attorney and a white local lawyer with a guilty conscience and a sick wife, who had to continue to live in the town that he was suing. The US has the world's largest prison population, and of the 2.3 million prisoners, more than 90 percent accepted guilty pleas.