Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yoav Potash's CRIME AFTER CRIME: This agenda doc has us nearly rabid with anger

Of late we've seen some terrific documentaries that seem nearly-and-pleasurably agenda free (Buck, If a Tree Falls, Battle for Brooklyn: the later may have an agenda, but the filmmakers bend over backward to keep it in check). Now comes a film that absolutely has one: CRIME AFTER CRIME by Yoav Potash. This documentary, that pursues justice above all, brought my anger, beginning in the stomach and rising slowly until I could feel it in my throat, to a point at which few movies have managed. Yet the film never screams, reflecting perhaps its leading lady, Debbie Peagler, shown on the poster above and in two of the stills below.

As Potash (left) shows and tells it, Ms Peagler, some 35 years ago, was the oft-beaten girlfriend of one, Oliver Wilson, her boyfriend who decided to pimp her out to local johns on a regular basis. Six years later, after Debbie has separated from Oliver and he and his thugs threaten to kill her family, she and her mom turn to local gang members who were to beat up Oliver but instead went a little too far in their punishment, leaving the pimp dead. Deborah is eventually arrested for the murder and remains in prison for twenty years -- until her case, which clearly involves abuse-of-women, is taken up by a couple of diverse pro-bono lawyers, Orthodox Jew Joshua Safran (below, left) and marathon-runner Nadia Costa, (below, right).

For very nearly the entire first half of Crime After Crime (which sounds like a play-on-words of a certain Cyndi Lauper song but actually involves the sleazy activity of the Los Angeles County D.A.'s office), we move along a more-or-less expected route, garnering information about our protagonist and the situation, with the full expectation that wrong will be righted.  Then a roadblock occurs, and another and another, and very soon, we are feeling, tenfold, the injustice of it all.

Because Joshua, above, saw his own mother repeatedly abused, and Nadia, below, is a former Social Worker for Children's Protective Services in Los Angeles, both are primed for the task at hand. And what a task it turns out to be. Your blood pressure should rise accordingly as the D.A.'s office stonewalls and thwart's justice at every turn (one of the reasons why TrustMovies, who grew up in Los Angeles, prefers to live elsewhere).

What Ms Peagler endures (along with her family), even as her own health deteriorates, is shameful and unnecessary. And some of L.A.s public figures like D.A. Steve Cooley and a certain Lael Rubin are shown up as some of the most disgusting examples of "the law" that you will have seen. When the powers-that-be array themselves against justice, this is what results. Little wonder that Peagler, below, turns to religion -- the hope of the disenfranchised.

But what real hope is there? You will see. Crime After Crime, from the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), opens this Friday, July 1, at the IFC Center in New York City, and on July 8 in the L.A. area (at Laemmle's Sunset 5 and Encino Town Center). Click here to see further playdates, cities and theaters around the country.

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