Posts Tagged ‘“Traffic Stop”’

OSCAR-NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS  Overall rating: B+ (Opens Feb. 9 at the Tivoli)

“TRAFFIC STOP” (USA, 30 minutes)  B+

Breaion King doesn’t look like a candidate for a roughing up by the police.

She’s an elementary school teacher (a good one, if the footage we see is to be believed), a churchgoer, a dancer and singer.

Of course, she’s also black, which may trump all of the above.

In 2015 King was stopped for speeding by Austin, Texas, police officer Bryan Richter. She questioned whether he had stopped her properly, then asked him to hurry up in writing the ticket.

The confrontation and violence that followed were captured by Richter’s dash cam.

Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s thought-provoking doc (it debuts Feb. 16 on HBO)  balances harrowing police footage of the arrest  (and King’s subsequent squad-car conversation with one of the officers) with scenes from her daily life.

Although she had never been in trouble with the law, King said that when she now Googles her name, she mostly gets hits connected to her arrest: “You get over the physical. It’s about getting over the spiritual and the mental.”

Her lawsuit against Officer Richter is pending.

“HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405”  (USA, 40 minutes) A-

Frank Stiefel’s “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” is a celebration of the fantastic art of Mindy Alper.

It is also among the cinema’s finest depictions of mental illness.

Alper is a brilliant artist specializing in line drawings and monumental papier mache sculptures. From childhood, though, she has suffered from depression and other mental/emotional issues which are only kept at bay (sometimes not successfully) by a daily regimen of antipsychotic drugs.

Alper tells her own story here, often in a peculiarly slurred voice (the result, possibly, of extensive shock therapy) and employing bizarre linguistic tics (especially when it comes to numbers…she describes 40 as “four circle”).

But while Alper sometimes struggles for words (at one point she didn’t speak for nearly a decade), there is no mistaking her fierce intelligence. She may have mental issues, but she is no fool. She recognizes how disquieting a presence she offers, but can’t do much about it.

And yet her inner light bursts through in her transcendent art.

“EDITH + EDDIE”   (USA, 29 minutes) B+

Beautiful, sad, infuriating and gut-wrenching, “Edith + Eddie” is a heartbreaker about late-in-life romance and honest-to-God death-by-broken-heart.

The widowed Eddie and Edith met playing Lotto. It was love at first sight. They married at ages 95 and 96 and live together in the house Edith and her first husband bought in 1960.

But now their lives are threatened by a family squabble.  Edith’s daughter Patricia, who has power of attorney (Edith has a mild case of dementia), wants to take her mother to her home in Florida, several states away.

Edith protests, saying that in the past Patricia’s husband has abused her. Eddie, who has never flown, refuses to go. He will be left behind.

Meanwhile Edith’s other daughter, Rebecca, who has cared for her mother for years, suspects this is all a plot to vacate the house and sell it.

Oh, and did I mention that Eddie is white and Edith is African American?

Laura Chaeckoway’s hankie-grabber concentrates on the old couple’s last days together: going to church, putting in their dentures, sitting in lawn chairs and watching the world go by.

The legal issues that are tearing the two apart are somewhat vague, but the emotion coursing through this film is inescapable.

“HEROIN(E)” (USA, 39 minutes) A

“Heroin(e)” plays like an episode of “COPS” in which all the macho has been replaced by compassion.

Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s profoundly disturbing and deeply moving look at the opioid epidemic in Wilmington, W. Va. centers on three women dedicated to saving lives and helping others get clean.

Patricia Keller is a drug court judge who mixes tough love and an achingly humane approach in an effort to keep offenders on the straight and narrow. She’s so empathetic that even when she sends a relapsed user back to jail, she assumes the persona of a mother sending a misbehaving kid off to bed with the hope that tomorrow things will get better.

Necia Freeman is, quite literally, a church lady who once a week cruises the streets handing out free lunches to addicted prostitutes. Trying to understand heroin’s pull, she queries a user and gets this response:  “For you it would be like kissing Jesus.”

Especially there’s Jan Rader, a fire department official through whose eyes we experience the epidemic.  These are mostly working class people who were injured, got hooked on pain pills and then turned to heroin. Five or six times a day she responds to an overdose emergency.  Once or twice a week she arrives too late.

“Hopelessness. Unemployment. Lack of education. It’s a recipe for disaster,” she observes. “I fear we’ve lost a couple of generations.”

“KNIFE SKILLS” (USA, 40 minutes) B+

Building a world-class French restaurant from scratch sounds like tough going.

Staff it almost entirely with recently-released prison inmates — and teach them how to cook, serve and pour in just the six weeks leading up to the grand opening — and  you’ve got the makings of a fiasco.

Except that Brandon Chrostowski’s Edwin’s Restaurant in Cleveland pulled it off.

Thomas Lennon’s film cross cuts between a handful of  ex-cons struggling to change their lives — they spend their days studying at Edwin’s culinary institute, then return at night to halfway houses and Salvation Army hostels — and Chrostowski, an aggressively upbeat mentor who as a teen faced a 10-year-sentence and has been working ever since to do the right thing. In one revelatory scene we see just what an emotional price Chrostowski has paid for his participation in this idealistic crusade.

Edwin’s opened two years ago to solid reviews and steady business, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.  Of the original class half dropped out, were re-arrested or were dismissed for infractions.  Those who hung on, however, got a second chance at life.

| Robert W. Butler

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