by Russell Lawrence
Today I had the pleasure of watching a wonderful film, Dayveon. The film first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and got great reviews. Now it is showing here at Winston-Salem downtown as a part of the RiverRun International Film Festival. I strongly urge all of you to go see it, especially if you were a fan of Moonlight this year.
Dayveon is the fictional story of a 13 year old boy who gets enlisted to join the Bloods after his brother, a gang member before him, is shot dead. The film doesn’t focus on gang violence however, and instead takes its time developing the relationships between Dayveon and the friends he makes during the initiation process.
The result is a beautiful introspective piece on why people join gangs, the separation people feel from the system, and a view at the culture that suppresses them.
The director was also present in a talk after the film, and talked about what went into the script writing process. He also talked about the very interesting visuals. “I like to think of films as a portrait, and when there’s no dialogue a film becomes a painting. These moments really help you understand the characters and their story more. When there’s no talking, that’s when stories really shine.”
still from Dayveon, 2017.
Director Amman Abbasi, a Pakistani-American filmmaker from Little Rock Arkansas, got the idea for Dayveon while working on a documentary that was exploring gangs in Chicago and talking to kids who felt pressured to join those gangs. One thing that was particularly interesting was how he discussed casting for the film: they cast locals from Little Rock to play the gang members, and tried not to use actors as much as possible. The resulting feeling is one similar to Italian neo-realism and French New Wave, it doesn’t feel like a film and instead feels very real.
Here is the film on RiverRun’s website so that you can buy tickets for their next showing!