Directed by: Wyatt Cagle
Written by: Gordon S. Williams
Genre: Historical, Drama
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It's rare to find a micro budget production, that tackles the "period film" in a way that ends up being a flattering presentation for the filmmakers. Story aside, there is also proper wardrobe, props and even the location to worry about. All these things can get pricey quickly, but are usually the "make it or break it" factors in any successful film. Something the micro production usually just doesn't have the cash for. Yet "The Example" through the clever use of locations, and some really great props manages to capture the look so many strive for. At least I think they do, from what I've seen and read over the years. The costume design was kept simple save the police uniforms, and the use of a back road for the majority of the film, works perfectly. For a micro film, the producers hit the nail right on the head and "The Example" presents well as a period film. Maybe a little too well, considering that gross feeling of disgust I had after watching it. I mean that in the best possible way. That sinking feeling I was left with was not in response to the title itself, rather the story contained within. It pains me to think people who considered themselves civilized and enlightened, would ever act in such ways. It also pains me to think about the small few who still do. "The Example" is Gordon S. Williams visual thoughts on racism. He has penned a script that reminds us of the way things "really" were back in the days of our grandparents and great grandparents. A time when being a black person meant you weren't really a person at all. Through the directors eyes (Wyatt Cagle) I witnessed true fear and cruelty. Veiled and costumed as patriotic, and in the interests of the decent people of the city. Perhaps those interests were factual, considering the number of racist white folk at the time, but there was nothing patriotic about what "The Example" shows us. As much as I hate to write it, "The Example" released a burst of shame that rippled through me. I am after all... white. As were my grandparents up and up the family tree. A person can not blame "themselves" for the actions of others. Even if they are family, and from past generations. But they "are" still family. It's shameful to think my own flesh and blood could have subscribed to this way of thinking. I've also always thought that blaming it on the times was a hard sell. We all know what is right and wrong deep down inside. A feeling that plays a big role in this short film. I know, and they (the older generations) knew. Right is right and wrong is wrong. "The Example" uses this completely to it's advantage. A smart move for sure.
Adding to the gorgeous camera work and slick post production work is a cast of actors at their best. From the undecided, and on the fence acting of Officer Miller Harvey (Jeremy Allen) when trying to decide what is right, and what is wrong. All the way across the board with the fear and loathing of Officer Bernard (Marc Isaacs) and his deeply racist words and actions. Kedrick Brown and Emma Van Lare, as the heads of the Jefferson family, also embody what was "expected" of a black family at the time. With Brown's character being the perfect example of trying to fit in, through smarts and education, and still not being able to get past the "black" pigment of his skin. It was also a creatively brilliant idea to use Kate Robards as Officer Harvey's wife, in such a strong way. Although things were changing, the women of that time were still considered below the men class-wise. Having Robards influence Allen's character so much was a great idea. An idea chalked full of era related parallels I should add, character and people wise.
"The Example" is one of those titles that manages to be both entertaining and thoughtful. A lot of "umph" is packed into these twenty something minutes. Although micro, there is nothing cheap on display here. A credit to the cast and crew for every stage of the production. Highly recommended.