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American Violet [Blu-ray] [Import]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 79 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Profiling the Drug Wars April 28 2009
By Karen Franklin - Published on
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.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By Ms. Kym - Published on
Format: DVD
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!!!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
ESSENTIAL viewing for EVERY good American Nov. 16 2009
By Jerry P. Danzig - Published on
Format: DVD
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Racist Intent Nov. 24 2009
By Katrina L. Burchett - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
One minute Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) is making an honest living as a waitress and sharing her dreams with a customer and soon after she's snatched away by police. Her four daughters go without their mother for twenty-one days while she spends time in jail for a crime she did not commit.

Dee lives in Melody, TX. The police have been raiding her community of Arlington Springs since she was a child, terrorizing less fortunate people of color and her so-called lawyer wants her to become one of many affected by plea bargains. Dee could have been like those who pleaded guilty under duress, but it was the love she had for her own children that gave her the courage to make a difficult choice. She decided to help ACLU lawyers David Cohen and Bryon Hill and a lawyer who resided in Melody, TX, Sam Conroy (Will Patton), fight to make things right. Dee was advised against taking a stand and, yes, she was afraid at times but she had the support of people close to her and she took her problems to Jesus.

When I heard about this film months ago I believe it only played in select theaters so I didn't get to see it. I was glad to come across it on dvd. Like most movies dealing with racial discrimination, parts of this movie irritated me but I did like American Violet.

"After what they did to me, mama, they made it my business!" - I liked that line. And the words confidential informant Porter (Anthony Mackie) spoke at the end of the pre-trail deposition - deep.
American Violet is based on a true story and I applaud Regina Kelly for her courage.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great Movie, So Sad Sept. 21 2009
By Erica Massenburg - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
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.

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