"In 2017, 987 people were shot and killed by police in America. One every nine hours. Black men were 3x more likely to be in that number than any other group of people." - The Guardian
It's difficult to describe the discomfort of watching the 12-minute short film Every Nine Hours, which recently had its world premiere at the Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival and just wrapped up a screening at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
If you've read this far into the review, a mere four lines, then you may already be thinking to yourself "know the story, don't need to see it." That could be because you're a black man in America and you live it every single day of your life. That could be because you're not a black man in America, but you've heard about it often enough that you're thinking to yourself "I don't need to see a film about it."
"I get it. I get it."
But, do we get it?
There's part of me that likes to think I get it...that I understand it. After all, I'm a disabled adult male living in a state where my right to live independently and marry and work was severely limited in my own lifetime.
I get the idea of life-changing, even life-determining discrimination.
That? I at least kind of understand.
But, that mindset is an excuse really.
It just is.
I don't "get" this. Truthfully, I don't want to get it.
The story that unfolds in Every Nine Hours, which is the directorial debut of acclaimed novelist and youth advocate Jim St. Germain and Emmy Award winner Adam Margolis, is a story that I don't get. I don't understand it. I can't relate.
I don't want to, but I need to. It's an uncomfortable truth and, as the opening lines in this review note, it's an uncomfortable truth costing lives every single year.
Year after year.
Philip Smithey (Code Black, Grace and Frankie) is riveting as Justin, a young black man to whom we are introduced in an all too familiar way. It's a way that we only read about in the papers when it ends in tragedy, though we've perhaps become so numb to its frequency that we don't realize that the real tragedy is that it happens at all.
By the time Justin meets up with his girlfriend, Christina (Elisabeth Ferrara), the fear and the hurt have turned into anger. It's the kind of anger that permeates every cell of one's being. It's the kind of anger that you try to keep in check, especially if you're a black man in America, because it's the kind of anger that not everyone can understand and it's the kind of anger that can get you killed.
Every Nine Hours isn't particularly about the event that unfolds in the film's opening scene, though it's that scene that fuels everything that occurs over the course of the film's slight, yet impactful 12-minute running time. In a quietly powerful way, Every Nine Hours isn't just about the overt racism but the seemingly quieter, everyday biases and misperceptions, stereotypes and assumptions that can and do fuel our behaviors, institutions, detachments and, all too frequently, our apathy.
Elisabeth Ferrara classically and wonderfully brings this to life as Christina, whose words may ring as familiar and whose actions may seem harmless...even normal, whatever that means. She's not the person we meet in the film's opening scene, yet Every Nine Hours brings vividly to life how her own perceptions and beliefs have long fueled her own biases and, yeah, her own racism that is still racism even if it looks and feels different from that which lands in the headlines.
You might think that the presence of iconic character actor Danny Trejo would prove a distraction here, but the truth is he's absolutely perfect as Raul, a man whose words of wisdom lead to the film's final poignant moments.
The film features a crew comprised of over 50% females and minorities, all contributing stellar work including Miriam Mayer's original music and lensing by Lauren Guiteras that rests itself amidst the discomfort of an extended scene between Justin and Christina that unfolds in a fancy restaurant where one gets the feeling heated discussions about race aren't exactly welcome.
Every Nine Hours isn't an easy film to watch. It's not supposed to be. It's an uncomfortable, squirm inducing, convicting kind of film that should lead to discussions and, just as much, to closer self-examination. It's an important film brought to life with intelligence and insight and honesty and featuring a tremendous ensemble cast that nails it with sensitivity and and passion and the kind of emotional resonance that makes you believe that, at least as much as possible, they really, really get it.
For more information on Every Nine Hours, visit the film's IMDB page and watch for upcoming fest appearances.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic