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He began a film, a search, to discover not only what had happened to Stevie over the past ten years but to understand the forces that had shaped his entire life. Part way through the filming, Stevie is arrested and charged with a serious crime that tears his family apart. What was to be a modest profile turns into a intimate four and half year chronicle of Stevie, his broken family, the criminal justice system and the filmmaker himself, as they all struggle with what Stevie has done and who he has become. Written by
[when his step-grandmother mentions Stevie's abusive biological mom]
I don't have a mother, I never had one, and on the day she dies, I'm gonna go, and I'm gonna laugh at her!
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I had a tough time watching the scene where the camera is on Steve James as Tonya tells him that at least something good came of all this, that at least a film was made about Stevie. I didn't like how long they allowed the camera to catch Steve's emotional reaction and it seemed a little too obvious...like the scene in Broadcast News where William Hurt whips up some tears to show on camera. I don't like that kind of manipulation. However, that being said, I don't mean to imply that Steven James wasn't sincere in his reaction; it was his editing choice that seems insincere.
It's a complicated film. Just like Stevie the person, there are no easy answers; unlike Stevie the person, life is not simply black and white. I do think the title reflects many things: the subject as he is now, the director's memory of Stevie the little boy, and the director himself. I don't believe that Stevie was exploited, but there is something in the intention of the film that is unsettling. And I think that unsettling feeling is an okay thing to have. If I taught a film class, this is a film I would definitely want to use to explore the nature of point of view, the ethics of documentary film-making, and the nature of simply being human.
I adored Tonya's friend in Chicago. Tonya, her friend, and Wanda reflect the very best about people and shatter easy stereotypes. These are all smart, independent, warm, thoughtful women, which is just wonderful to see in a documentary film.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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