Wednesday, May 22, 2024

EUR Film Review: ‘Brian Banks’ by Anasia Obioha

*Imagine being a star football player in your junior year of high school with a full-ride scholarship awaiting you for the University of Southern California when one day you’re accused of a heinous crime you didn’t commit causing you to be expelled from school, lose your scholarship, your freedom and your credibility. That is what happened to Brian Banks, whose heartbreaking story is documented in the film “Brian Banks,” in theaters in North America starting August 9.

In 2002, Banks was falsely accused of rape by a classmate after she suggested they have a make-out session in a stairwell in a remote part of campus.  The story is told through the eyes of Banks played by Aldis Hodge, who is on parole after serving 5 years at the start of the movie.

Through flashback scenes, he recounts how he was faced with a possibility of 41 years to life behind bars when his attorney advised him to accept a plea deal. She claimed it was in his best interest because as a black man, a jury wouldn’t believe his word over the accuser and he would only receive probation with no jail time. Brian took his attorney’s advice, pled no contest and received five years in prison and five years of probation. Additionally, he was required to register as a sex offender. This is despite the fact that the accuser’s story didn’t line up and there was no evidence against him.


aldis hodge - brian banks
Aldis Hodge stars as Brian Banks

Like the Netflix series ‘When They See Us’ and ‘The Kalief Browder Story’ also on Netflix, it’s another painful example of a miscarriage of justice against a black man, who in many cases is assumed guilty and railroaded through a broken system.

The writer, Doug Atchison, does a great job of easing the viewer into Brian’s tragic tale by pulling back one layer at a time as we go on a journey with him to get vindication. That combined with award-winning acting by Hodge, Sherry Shepard, who plays his mother and Greg Kinnear, who plays his attorney, makes the film an emotionally charged masterpiece.

Aside from the quality of the movie, however, there are some infuriating moments watching Brian navigate the criminal justice system that can cause a sense of frustration with how little power a person has if they are falsely accused of a crime. My hope is that the movie will stimulate conversations that lead to change, advocacy and resources just as the ‘Me Too’ movement has done for sexual violence survivors. To me, when a person is stripped away of their freedom, family, lively hood and dreams for a crime they didn’t commit because of a rush to judgment and poor investigations, they too are victims. Many of the falsely accused are raped, violently attacked, put in solitary confinement and never able to recover what has been taken from them.

I highly recommend seeing this film as Brian’s story has a great ending and even better message about perseverance.

Anasia Obioha is based in Southern California. Contact her via: [email protected].

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