Director Amman Abbasi gives us Devin Blackmon as Dayveon, screening at the American Essentials Film Festival 2017. An official selection at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festival, this 75 minute Australian Premiere has a cast of largely non-professionals, adding documentary moments to the film, by doing nothing really in particular.
For other great selections, head to the American Essential Film Festival website.
Dayveon is a 13 year old African American boy living in the small town of rural Arkansas. He struggles with the recent death of his big brother as he loiters about with not a lot to do. Living with his sister, her baby and partner, this lack of activity on a heart weighing heavy with grief, leads to gang-type activities of petty crime, pot smoking and hanging out.
The film begins with the 13 year old declaring the stupidity of everything in his world. His deeper expression of grief and dissatisfaction with everything in life is evident. Director Amman Abbasi has cleverly woven this coming of age/initiation into gang life story with some highly stylised editing and an ethereal atmosphere.
Abbasi, a Pakistani immigrant himself grew up around Arkansas, and this is his feature debut. His direction touches on his interest in exploring how the history of gangs in Arkansas are a little different to organised crime and drug cartel problems in Chicago. In Arkansas it was more about fitting in a community than about distributing large amounts of drugs. He ran his script past at-risk youth at the local boot camp and put their words on the page as to how their story should really be told.
Young newcomer Devin Blackmon is solid in his role as Dayveon. He's pretty laid back and believable in his portrayal as a young boy, bored with not much to do in the sleepy town of rural Arkansas. Blackmon dominates the majority of the film, making for an intimate study and closeup of his sometimes uncomfortable journey. On that note, it did also take me a little while to tune into the accents to get a grip on what was being said.