The System Film Review
By: Paula Ilonze
The System is an independent film directed by Irin Daniels. It’s a heart-wrenching story, unfortunately, told too often, about a young black boy’s life being taken by law enforcement. In this case, the young boy is 12-year-old Nate Wesley Jr. (played by Prince DeBoskie), who is also deaf. He was gunned down by officer Sam Lynch (played by Owen Conway), who had been stalking the Wesley’s for a while, waiting on a moment to bust them for a crime.
There was no crime, but in his mind, they had to be guilty. For people like Sam, being black means you’re up to no good. Instead of seeing sign language exchanged between father and son, he chose to see gang signs.
One false assumption and prejudiced thought led to another, and Nate Jr. ended up shot dead in a store parking lot by officer Sam. This film should have a trigger warning because it mirrors a pattern in American history that still happens to this day.
Kreesha Turner, Prince DeBoskie, Reginald Kennedy, Mario Van Peebles, Vincent Brantley
This story is similar to the tragic death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-boy who was shot dead while he was holding a toy gun at an Ohio park in 2014. Both stories involve trigger-happy cops suspicious of small black children, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, and immediately villainizing them.
After Nate Jr.’s death, his father visited Sam’s home for revenge. He went there, emotionally blinded with the intent to kill, but Sam was out sleeping with his mistress, Yesenia. So instead, Nate Sr. gagged and bound Sam’s wife and daughter and left them strewn on the floor for Sam to discover when he returned.
This film reflects biases, anger, pain, resentment, vengeance, betrayal, grief, trauma and all the other emotions involved in race relations in America. It makes you put yourself in each character’s shoes.
The System, though slightly disjointed from a storytelling perspective, had many messages. First and foremost, it showcases the reality that many members of our police force are battling inner demons, like PTSD, and allow those demons and personal prejudices against black and brown people to make them a danger to society. It also teaches us that law enforcement should receive better training on how to communicate with people with disabilities and be taught to recognize cultural nonverbal communication styles.
This film also shows the typical aftermath of a police shooting; how the cops go from fearful of losing their jobs and getting socially exiled, to indignant about the outrage. Saying they feel they did the right thing, creating their own narrative that destroys the characters of the diseased, saying they deserved it. Turning the victim into the defendant, making us think, “who’s on trial again?”
There’s seldom a remorseful cop. And yet, the movie is also unique, in that it makes us feel sympathetic towards Sam. Because despite being a monster, he’s a person, too. A person with fears, trauma, and emotions.
The System may have had shoddy acting, but it effectively walks you through the rollercoaster of emotions and reminds you that there are always two sides to every story.