Nicole Beharie (The Express), Will Patton (Entrapment, The Postman), Charles Dutton (TV's Roc, Mimic) and Alfre Woodard (TV's Desperate Housewives, Primal Fear) star in this gripping true-life story. Falsely accused of dis... more »tributing narcotics in a school zone, Dee Roberts (Beharie) is offered a deal she can't 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.« less
"Wouldn't it be terrible to find yourself jailed for something you did not do, based solely on the word of a lying, mentally ill drug addict? That's what happened to Regina Kelly in Hearne, Texas back in 2000. Ensnared in a mass arrest of suspected drug dealers at her housing project, the young single mother was charged with selling drugs in a school zone. Despite her insistence that she was innocent, her court-appointed attorney pressured her to accept a plea bargain to avoid many years in prison and the loss of her children. With no criminal record and no drugs found on or near her, she refused the deal. Instead, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union she filed a class action lawsuit.
Although Kelly's case was reported in a documentary by PBS' cutting-edge Frontline back in 2004, American Violet brings a fictionalized version to a broader, mass audience. Co-director Bill Haney (along with Tim Disney) says he heard about Kelly's case on National Public Radio as he was driving; it so moved him that he pulled his car over to the side of the road and cried.
In this film, "Dee Roberts" (a magnificent Nicole Beharie) is the plaintiff in a class-action case over racial discrimination in drug enforcement. Tim Blake Nelson plays David Cohen, the ACLU lawyer who sues district attorney Calvin Beckett (Michael O'Keefe) on her behalf.
Kelly is quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying the film is "90 percent accurate." The depositions, the courtroom scene in which she fights to retain custody of her children, and many other scenes are word-for-word accounts.
Like Clint Eastwood's Changeling, this tale of a defiant woman's struggle against corrupt law enforcement strikes a universal chord. But American Violet also addresses present-day criminal justice themes of racial profiling, coerced plea bargaining, and - most of all - wrongful convictions based on false statements by jailhouse informants.
I highly recommend this powerful movie.
For those interested in more information on the actual case, the Web has various resources. The class-action case, Regina Kelly v. John Paschall, is discussed at the ACLU's website. Kelly has her own web site and a YouTube video; just Google her name to get to those. I have also posted more information and links at 1url(dot)com/AmericanViolet. "
A RECOMMENDED EYE-OPENER FOR ALL!!!!
Ms. Kym | New York | 10/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seen a viewing of 'AMERICAN VIOLET' recently.. And I had mixed emotions: upset, melancholy, ecstatic, and surprised! To be falsely accused of a crime, that you know deep in your heart you did NOT commit, is one thing... But when your so-called lawyer suggests you to take a plea bargain, oppose to fighting for your clearance makes one wonder who can you trust... This movie, based on factual events, is heartwrenching, as it is an eye-opener!!! I'd recommend that everyone sees this flick, even teens!!! Granted this ocurred in Melody, Texas, it's taking place worldwide...
PS... Superb performances by all: Nicole Beharie, Alfre Woodard, Will Patton, even Anthony Mackey!!! Applause, followed by a standing ovation!!!"
Great Movie, So Sad
Erica Massenburg | East Coast, USA | 09/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I seen this movie in the theathers and I cried so much, The movie was great, the actors were very good too. This is a true story that needed to be told. I will buy this on Blu ray when it comes out."
ESSENTIAL viewing for EVERY good American
Jerry P. Danzig | New York, NY USA | 11/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is quite simply the most moving and powerful film I've seen this year. In fact, the film had me from the opening credits, where scenes of a young black mother getting her kids up out of bed and ready for the day are juxtaposed with scenes of police getting their armaments ready for an assault on a government housing project.
"American Violet" is based on a true story, and while the film makers combined some characters and condensed the passage of time for dramatic purposes, the key events of the film are as they happened in real life.
It's just another day in Bush Texas, where counties were given government money for making drug convictions. Worse, citizens could be accused and arrested based on the testimony of a single informant, in this case a young paranoid schizophrenic whose testimony would never hold up in court.
How then did the government prevail in these cases? By offering suspects a plea bargain: plead guilty and pay a fine but serve no jail time. What they didn't tell those who accepted the pleas were the terrible consequences: no further government benefits, no government housing subsidies, felonies on their records, and no further right to vote as American citizens.
Appallingly, this film reveals that ninety percent of all the cases in the American "justice" system are resolved by these profoundly inequitable plea bargains. What's more, an African-American man is more likely to serve time in jail in contemporary America than to graduate from college.
This story focuses on the young mother accused of dealing drugs. Against all odds, and having no resources to afford a good lawyer, she filed a civil suit against the government with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union -- and got the government to drop the charges and even amend their practices.
Now they cannot arrest someone in Texas based on the testimony of a single individual.
Unfortunately, the corrupt DA who made a practice of running these raids on the predominantly Afro-American housing development was eventually re-elected (and may still be in office -- it's unclear).
Indeed, though this corruption took place even as Bush was "appointed" President in 2000, the system is still as much in need of repair in Obama's America.
As a white, middle-aged, middle-class viewer, I was shocked and appalled by this sad truth, of which I was unaware. And yes, I used up about a quarter of a box of Kleenex watching this movie.
The acting here is uniformly Oscar-worthy, most notably by Alfre Woodard as the young woman's mother and newcomer Nicole Beharie as Dee, the accused. Charles Dutton and Will Patton also give sterling performances; even the little girls are commendable -- four sisters in real life.
Finally I must take VEHEMENT exception to the editorial review Amazon has posted above. I don't know who the blockheaded woman is who called this a bad movie -- I've never heard of this reviewer before and doubt I ever will again, if her other reviews are as far off base as this one.
Interestingly, the director Tim Disney is the great-grand-nephew of Walt Disney, and is apparently as devout a good-hearted liberal as Uncle Walt was conservative, cold, and, according to some, anti-Semitic. In fact, I will be as bold as to say that if Tim Disney makes more films of this calibre, Walt's greatest gift to America and the world may turn out to be Tim, not Mickey Mouse.
And what does the title of the film refer to? The hardy little plant that almost dies when Dee is imprisoned, flourishing again at the end of the film.
I can't recommend this film enough. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex at the ready, however. You will need it.
Rarely seen docu-drama of a woman's fight for justice
Dennis W. Wong | 11/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I rented this unknown film in Blu-ray from Blockbuster because of the cast: Alfre Woodard, Charles Dutton, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael O'Keefe and Will Patton who are all excellent in this true story of an woman unjustly accused of being a drug pusher. The actress, Nicole Beharie, is excellent in her debut and the story is almost just as riveting as Clint Eastwood's "Changeling". I guess what keeps me from giving this a full 5 star review is that the direction is somewhat TV movish but regardless I still recommend this true story of injustice to everyone who is interested in the law of the land. The Blu-ray is excellent and the film is shown in wide-screen format (2.35)."