Many films have been made about drugs, crime, and the brutal reality of that world. It is not an easy world and the casualties are high. Director Charles Officer delivers a film that is steeped in violence and realism. A film that will haunt you long after you leave the cinema.
Akilla Brown(Saul Williams) is a seasoned drug dealer, he embodies the screen with fierce yet quiet power. The movie opens with Akilla and his cohort preparing for a routine handoff. From the onset, the tone of the film is set and we get a vivid picture of the life he leads and the stakes involved with his trade. When they arrive at the location nothing goes as planned and in the ambush that ensues and the firepower unleashed Akilla barely escapes with his life. But not before capturing one of the ambushers a young teenage boy named Sheppard (played by Thamela Mpumlwan).
Now the people he works for want their stolen merchandise back and Akilla must do everything in his power to set things right. But complications surface as Akilla is plunged into a night of increased violence. The capture of Shepard brings Akilla’s past rushing towards him like a speeding train. Using flashback we see the violence that has been passed down to him as a young boy(with Thamela Mpumlwan also portraying young Akilla).
There are hard to watch scenes as Akilla’s father (Ronnie Rowe) a Jamaican man intent on making Akilla a man by physical and psychological intimidation. No one in the family is spared from his violent personality. It is a truism that clearly shows how we are mostly shaped by our upbringing and environment.
When Akilla learns that Sheppard has connections to the very same gang that set him on the life of crime as a child. Akilla has to confront his demons and find a way to save Sheppard and possibly himself. Akilla’s escape is a blueprint showing the stamp of violence that grows like wild weeds imprinting itself on generation after generation. A virus that is hard to root out and harder to stop, a virus that decimates communities, cities, and families. Whether the cultural landscape is Jamaican, American, or International it weaves the same tragic end. With a powerful soundtrack that is as much a character in the film and outstanding acting performances that are grounded in the rhythm of their world Akilla’s escape can join the ranks of films that are willing to send a message, not necessarily what we want to hear but one we need to know.
Director: Charles Officer
Screenwriter: Charles Officer, Motion
Producer: Jake Yanowski, Charles Officer
Executive Producer: Martin F. Katz, Karen Wookey, Michael A. Levine, Reservoir
Akilla’s Escape stars: Saul Williams, Thamela Mpulmwana, Donisha Prendergast, Shomari Downer, Olunike Adeliyi, Ronnie Rowe Jr., featuring Colm Feore, with Bruce Ramsay and Vic Mensa
Content advisories: violence, sexually suggestive content
About Director Charles Officer
Charles Officer is a Canadian-British filmmaker. A former professional hockey player, Charles studied design at Ontario College of Art and worked as a creative director for major design and advertising agencies. He studied theatre at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City and was a director resident at the Canadian Film Centre where his debut fiction feature Nurse. Fighter. Boy was produced. The film premiered at TIFF in 2008 and earned ten Canadian Screen Award nominations. His feature documentary, Mighty Jerome, produced by the National Film Board is a breathtaking rendering of the rise and fall of Harry Jerome, Canada’s greatest unsung track and field star. Simultaneously, Charles has been a director on multiple television series such as; Coroner (CBC), Ransom (CBS, Global, TF1), 21 Thunder (Netflix, CBC), and Private Eyes (ION Television, Global). His feature documentary Invisible Essence; The Little Prince is an authorized work about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s transcendent novella Le Petit Prince. Released in 2018, the film was sold internationally to Netflix and received two CSA nominations in 2019 for Best Feature Documentary and Best Editing. Akilla’s Escape is Charles’ latest feature set for release in 2020.