Director: Jason J. Gray
Writer: Christopher I. Moore
Starring: Nakoa Lee, Reggie Jernigan
Running Time: 22 Mins.
Release Date: July 15, 2009
Festivals: Indianapolis International Film Festival
Perhaps the boldest and bravest of the short films in the 2009 Indianapolis International Film Festival, "Amulett" is the disturbing story of Steven (Nakoa Lee), a young man raised from childhood to be a man of hatred and racism who suddenly finds himself struggling with the path that he is on.
Can he stray from his pre-determined path?
What costs will there be for doing so?
Martin Luther King, Jr. once pointed out that it is only when we are willing to die for what we believe that we are truly standing for anything, and Steven has reached a point where all those things in his life he's always stood for are things he no longer believes. With his father in prison, Steven's only family exists within the White Pride movement and, yet, Steven finds himself increasingly at odds with their belief system, logic and thought processes.
This inner turmoil boils to the surface one night when Steven is brutally beaten by a group of young Black men after one of the young men recognizes him as one of the men who'd attacked him earlier. Unexpectedly, Steven is rescued by Dr. Christopher Jefferson (Reggie Jernigan), who not only stops the attack but tries to help the man despite obviously recognizing him from an earlier taunting. Steven flees, dropping a treasured amulet. When Jefferson attempts to return it to him, he unfortunately encounters Steven's family and it is time for Steven to choose.
Will Steven stand up for what he truly believes?
Will Steven die for his beliefs?
While the storyline sounds simple, it is graphically brought to life by Gray in ways that are haunting yet realistically realized. Racism is not pretty, and Gray refuses to paint it in ways that will make the audience more comfortable. "Amulett" is a stark, realistic film with images that will stay with you long after the credits roll. The film's ensemble cast is stellar across the board, most notably a quietly resolute performance by Reggie Jernigan.
It is only the ending itself that rang a bit hollow, a bit of a tacked on dramatics that feel forced and a touch too rushed for peaceful resolution. This minor quibble aside, "Amulett" brings to mind "American History X" with its devotion to honest and authentic filmmaking and storytelling.