|Running time:||90 minutes|
|Release date:||00 0000|
After screening as part of the Planet Africa program at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, Charles officer's second film, 12 years after Nurse Fighter Boy (2008) was also recently screened as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) and so we got a chance to check it out. It is interesting to see that despite the excellent reviews following its world premiere this film has not yet been distributed in the United States and in France because it deserves to be discovered.
Set in present day Toronto and 1990s Brooklyn, the film shows us the past of drug dealer Akilla Brown (Saul Williams) and the repercussions that this has on his present in an original way. With coming-of-age at the center of the story, the film intelligently deals with social violence and the consequences it has on the lives of African-Canadians. While Akilla is a successful marijuana dealer who has created a veritable empire by retiring following legalization, he will feel compelled following a robbery, which went wrong at one of his bases, to prevent a young boy (Thamela Mpumlwana) from being drawn into a life of crime and following the same life as him on the bangs of society and living in constant fear of attack.
Based on the police crackdown on the Toronto chapter of the Shower Posse crime gang, Akilla's Escape relies on solid acting and a perfect sense of timing to parallel two distinct eras of equal importance. By better explaining Akilla Brown's past, we better understand what motivates her to want to save this young teenager who reflects an image of himself. It is also interesting to see that the juxtaposition of the character Akilla Brown as an adult and as a child reinforces the dramatic aspect of the film and transforms the film from a simple robbery gone wrong into a film about the second chance, the transmission of power and the virility of a man who is thwarted by his ghosts of the past.
In the same way, the original music of the film produced by Saul Williams adds an undeniable value to this film, holding our attention even more on the story and the hypnotic side of the characters. From the first scene in which we discover the character Akilla dancing alone, we understand that this one is apart and we will understand better his way of living through flashbacks of his past.
The very inspired direction of Charles Officer (also co-writer) is clever and perfectly choreographed. It places the audience in a striking contrast, keeping in mind that Jamaica's gang culture is strongly linked to the country's turbulent political history. Violence seems to be an integral part of the DNA of these different gangs and especially a desire to become rich at all costs and to gain importance. Akilla's Escape imposes itself by its constant way of remaining realistic and giving its characters a real importance. The visual aspect and the constant energy that marks this film easily makes it a film apart even if it takes up certain themes seen in other films. One will think in particular of Brian De Palma's The Dead End (Carlito's Way) (1994) by its tragic and liberating end.
With a solid cast that also includes Vic Mensa, Oluniké Adeliyi, Ronnie Rowe, Theresa Tova, Brandon Oakes and Colm Feore, Akilla's Escape deserves to be screened in theaters and not a direct-to-video release that would do a disservice to a film that deserves to be discovered in excellent conditions.
Directed by Charles Officer
Produced by Jake Yanowski
Written by Charles Officer, Wendy "Motion" Brathwaite
Starring Saul Williams, Thamela Mpumlwana, Donisha Prendergast, Vic Mensa, Ronnie Rowe Jr, Olunike Adeliyi, Colm Feore, Bruce Ramsay, Shomari Downer
Music by Robert Del Naja, Saul Williams
Cinematography : Maya Bankovic
Edited by Andres Landau
Production companies : Canesugar Filmworks
Distributed by Vertical Entertainment Level Film
Release date : September 12, 2020 (Canada)
Running time : 90 minutes
Seen on April 5, 2021 (SBIFF)