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An Important and compelling story that needed to be told
JustCuriosity15 March 2009
I was honored to have the opportunity to catch a screening of American Violet's Texas premiere at the Paramount Theatre during Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film tells the important story of Dee Roberts drug arrest in Melody, Texas in 2000. The story of the abuse of power by the criminal justice system is an important one that most Americans are not terribly familiar with. The story is generally well-acted and compelling as we are drawn through the story of Dee's clearly false arrest and prosecution. The line between fact and dramatic license does remain a little foggy and there is particularly unbelievable scene in which the local district attorney acts as some sort of family court judge who oversees a hearing to determine the custody of Dee's 4 children.

The legal focus of the film does tend to bounce around from one issue to another – the problem of forced plea bargaining, the misuse of Federal drug task forces, the use of dishonest informants, the problem of fighting a "war on drugs," and finally focusing on blatant racism of District Attorney. All of these issues are certainly present in the criminal justice system, but the relationship and role of each is often confusingly presented and blurs the legal focus of the film. Nevertheless, the story remains powerful and the presentation is a potent one.

Regardless of the limitations, some of which are inherent in the criminal docudrama, the film is well worth seeing, because of the important story that it tells about complex interaction between race, poverty and the criminal justice system that is often obscured from the view of much of the American public. The film deserves to be seen by those who still doubt the critical role of racism in American society - particularly in the criminal justice system.
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Gripping tale that becomes of the year's best films of 2008
rcj536518 May 2009
Powerfully produced and directed, "American Violet" is a film based on the racially charged drug war scandal that rocked the town of Hearne,Texas,several years ago,which explores the devastating impact of America's "war on drugs". Directed by Tim Disney and written by Bill Haney,the film has a powerful story to tell,fueled by the powerful cast which includes Alfre Woodard,Will Patton,Tim Blake Nelson,rapper/actor Xzibit(in a electrifying performance),and Emmy Award winning actor Charles S. Dutton.

The film,as recounted here,the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 15 African-American residents of Hearne who were indicted in November 2000 on drug charges after being rounded up in a series of unlawful paramilitary drug "sweeps". These undercover drug busts,which led to the arrest of 15 percent of the African-American men between the ages of 18 to 34 in Hearne,were uniformly undertaken based on the uncorroborated word of a single unreliable confidental informant coerced by police to make cases. The film centers around Dee(played by newcomer Nicole Beharie)who works a shift at the local diner. The powerful local district attorney(Academy Award nominee Michael O'Keefe)leads an extensive drug bust,sweeping her Arlington Springs housing project with aggressive military tactics. Police drag Dee from work in handcuffs,dumping her in the squalor of the women's county prison. Indicated based on the uncorroborated word of a single and dubious police informant facing his own drug charges,Dee soon discovers that she has been charged as a drug dealer. Even though Dee has no prior drug record and no drugs were found on her in the raid or any subsequent searches,she is offered a hellish choice:plead guilty and go home as a convicted felon with an attendant loss of her federal and state rights,thus jeopardizing the custody of her children and risking a long prison sentence. Despite the urgings of her mother(Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard),and with her freedom and custody of her children at stake,she chooses to fight the district attorney and the unyielding criminal justice system he represents in the state of Texas. Joined in an unlikely alliance with an ACLU attorney(Tim Blake Nelson),and former local narcotics officer(Will Patton),Dee risks everything in a battle that forever changes her life and the Texas justice system. "American Violet" is a hard-hitting Hollywood blockbuster of a film that tells the story of Regina Kelly,one of the people rounded up in a Tulia style drug bust in Hearne,Texas back in 1999. The Hearne tragedy would have never have come to light without Tulia in which people took a stand against the wrongdoings down there in which the people fought for their rights. The cast here in downright superb including the electrifying performance of newcomer Nicole Beharie as Dee Roberts,who took on the State of Texas and won not only her case against her,but her freedom.

A gripping and suspenseful and emotional tale that became one of the official selected films for the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. And it is one of the year's best from 2008. The movie became the left-right combination of a scandal that changed the rules and regulations of the drug war in the State of Texas.
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Don't Miss - Tough Story Packs a Punch and is a Lesson for us all
Susan Dunn16 November 2008
My stomach started to tense about 1/3 into this movie, and never stopped. I was in the GRIP of this story and social situation which was happening in our country only 8 years ago!! Powerfully acted, produced, edited with a message for all ages. I think this film will help to expose some of the terrible crimes we have been perpetrating in this "democracy".

This film subtly reveals the passivity of ordinary citizens exposed to a tyrannical local government, who keep their heads down and don't make waves. The cost of taking a stand is life-threatening. There are real heroes who realize that it is better to fight and lose against injustice than to submit and be victimized. The movie has an unusual realism while totally engaging us at the same time. I recommend it to all thinking people who care about tolerance and justice.
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Worth Seeing
jrmcoach6 May 2009
Somewhat preachy, but revealing story of how DAs in rural Texas in particular and maybe South in general have and use the power to make their statistics look good by picking on African Americans. The first half has the ambiance of a taut documentary. Less so after the civil lawsuit began. It should have been a civil rights suit in the federal court, but this wasn't made clear at first. The deposition scenes really detracted from the impact, but maybe that's the way depositions are conducted in Texas. Alfra Woodard as the Grandmother takes the top acting honors. However, the acting was first rate from top to bottom.

Jim Madison, Menlo Park, CA
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Great cast and the good story over comes the weakness in the telling
dbborroughs14 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Fact based story of a mother of four swept up in a drug sweep in Texas . She was arrested and held for three weeks on the word of a single informant. She was eventually released and with the help of the ACLU sued the district attorney and the police department who charged her. A solid ensemble cast (Alfre Woodard, Will Patton, Tim Brook Nelson, Charles Dutton, Michael O'Keefe) is the reason to see this otherwise by the numbers film. Its not that the story is unexciting, rather it's that the script and direction while very serviceable never fully excite the way they should. The result is a very good film that should have been great. Certainly this should not have felt even remotely like a TV movie, something it does at times. Reservations aside this is a film worth searching out, the cast is that good.
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Must see movie -- important story
pj-naturalfinance27 July 2013
Story wise this is definitely 10 stars. Its unclear what dramatic embellishments were made, but it is based on a true story, and there was incredible courage required by those involved to pursue this fight.

Its a powerful emotional and human perspective on a horrible injustice that most definitely hasn't been resolved. The end of the movie will tell you the life updates of all the major characters, make sure you pay attention to the DA's.

While the movie focuses on racial bias against blacks, the issues of legal persecution apply to all people, and the movie does a fair job in illustrating those impacts. As a social issue, there's been no improvement, and likely worsening, since 2000 or 2008, and that is what makes this movie so fundamental and important.
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A strong woman struggling to prove her innocence
Miss Naughtia13 November 2011
I was amazed with this movie, it has such a touching story. It really captivated me.

The movie follows a young African American woman who is a single mother of 4 in a very harsh neighborhood. She gets accused and charged of dealing drugs even though she's innocent. She's an honest women with a clean record and there is a hint of racism in the air of the accusing lawyer. The movie follows the woman while she struggles to prove her innocence.

This movie was touching and really makes one think about the World we live in and all the judgment we have against the people we know too little about. I loved this movie and I will remember it for a long time. Also it had some very great acting talents, a must see.
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A Breakthrough Role for Nicole Beharie
Spirit Equality23 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Lead actress Nicole Beharie makes a spectacular film debut here, with powerful supporting work from everyone involved. The film artfully brings to the fore serious questions about how the drug war is being waged. Based on court depositions and actual events of a specious drug raid based on (minor spoiler ahead) the word of a coerced informant to rig conviction stats, this is a wake-up call to anyone who was not aware of the politics of the drug "war". The subplot about the child custody struggle between the lead and Xzibit's character was also harrowing. There is also subtle interaction across racial lines that shows the complexity of how people interact in the south, particularly in the initial restaurant exchange between Dee and two patrons and between Dee and her restaurant employer. No one here is portrayed as a perfect angel, making the film feel very true to life.
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Worth watching to see the other truth...
chatkinson25 March 2009
After seeing this movie at an Atlanta, Georgia screening, it was like being sucker punched and having all the wind knocked out. And this is a docu-drama based on a real like event. I've seen all that mess and more, have a better understanding of how and why 92 year old Katheryn Johnston was murdered. Why I see the police all the time except when I call them for help (that's not why they are in my neighborhood). The truly false perception of how well the DA's, Judges and police are doing their jobs but what they do is no more than busy work, never accomplishing a thing. And jails are the only industry in America that is growing. When was the last time you went to the store to buy a prison? Stopped in a showroom to look at the latest model prison? I don't recall asking for new prisons or more prisons; they was the ideas of politicians and investors (so you know there's money involved somewhere). And the 2 Federal Judges that were convicted for taking bribed (paid $2.5 million) to lengthen sentence in juvenile cases. We need to talk about this or we'll all end up behind bars. And this is all allowed, by law, because of the wording in the 13th Amendment giving slavery and involuntary servitude a legal place in America.
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Important Information - Educational
Daisy3828 October 2009
This film was outstanding. I recently viewed the DVD. Why was it not publicized much? While it was in a few theaters, there were no shows posted in North Florida Theatres and shows in the deep south were limited.

This film is an extremely important and educational film which should (and hopefully will) get more air time. Please get the word out! People can handle it without rivalry. It will be OK. Please put it on Cable and National TV ASAP. The acting was phenomenal in all areas.

It was truly amazing to see that this type of activity still takes place in our Nation. The film was depicting events that took place only a few years ago based on the Bush Presidential Election results information contained within the film.

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A new federal law puts a bounty on the heads of black people.
nathan-yeo5 September 2009
First off the cast was delicious, Nicole BEHARIE I could watch all day. I've been a big fan of Micheal O'KEEFE since I saw him in "The Great Santini". Here he plays the racist DA who flies a helicopter over the local projects. He'd like to chase everybody out of there but the county can't afford too. However when the Federal Government will give money to counties over drug-dealing convictions he now has the recourses to do just that. He raids them arrests everybody for felony dealing which puts them in jail. If they plead to get out then they have a felony record can't live in the projects and can't vote against him. But one woman stands up and fights the charges and in doing so reveals that the DA trumped up charges and his scheme falls apart before his eyes. This movie gets a 10 because it also blames the victims for the situation they got themselves into. it delves into the mentality of the project people. My only problem is I've extensively read articles when this happened and the actual even is more interesting than the movie.
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American Violet in need of some Miracle gro
Red Rat3 April 2010
Based on a true events, American Violet tells the story of Dee Roberts, played by Nichole Beharie, a young black single mother living in the poor neighbourhood of a small town in Texas. Dee Roberts, whilst life has not been easy for her, lives a model life, working hard, providing for her daughters and going to church on Sundays. Then, one day Dee finds her life turned upside down when she is arrested for drug dealing. Although innocent of the charges against her Dee is railroaded by the legal system and told plead is faced with a choice, accept the plea bargain of guilty and serve a suspended sentence, or fight to prove her innocence and risk 18 years to life. A poor single black mother in a fundamentally racist state she is backed up against a wall.

There are a couple of subplots intertwined with the main story, which help to keep it moving smoothly along, they do not distract from the main plot line but neither do they enhance it. Nichole Beharie, is not only stunningly beautiful, but solidly convincing as the true life character Dee Roberts, proof that beautiful women can act and don't rely on looks alone to land roles. There's some good strong supporting roles, all round performances, and nowhere does the film get too carried away with itself that it becomes over the top. Occasionally powerful, for instance some of the scenes involving Dee's child's father and the "deposition scene" had me leaning forward out from my seat. I did feel however, not powerful enough and nothing was made of the tension which would have undoubtedly arisen between Dee and the establishment in such a small town.

Although the story is based on true events, centering around Dee Roberts there's room for a more profound thread in the fact that the US legal system is so intractably flawed and combined with a penitentiary system which makes money from incarcerating increased numbers of felons> The US now has 1% (2.6 million) of it's population in prison, substantially higher than any other country in the world and 96% of inmates never stand trial but are forced into accepting plea bargains simply because they neither have the knowledge or the money to fight. Prisons make money from prison labour and the majority of those incarcerated are of black or latino origin, begging the question, has the US penal system simply become a modern day slavery? The film itself does not address this aspect directly, rather it skirts around the edges and attacks the shadow of this institutional racism and corruption not with a sword but a pocket knife. And here lies the biggest problem this film faces, how do you tackle a subject so complex as institutional racism and fit it into a glossy hour and 45 minute Hollywood movie without alienating most of the people you want to pay money at the box office? it's not easy, director Tim Disney, fails to find a solution to that problem electing to go with a non confrontational glossy approach, making me feel that perhaps someone more used to tackling these difficult social issues should have directed American Violet and giving it the punch it so desperately needed. You're left feeling slightly disturbed as you know how very true these issues are, but sadly not disturbed enough. Still, it's worth watching even if only for the delightfully beautiful Miss Beharie.

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Excellent Movie
danceability25 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent True Story

Based on the true story of Dee Roberts A 24 year-old African American single mother of four living in a small Texas town. When she is dragged away from work one day in handcuffs, and then dumped in the womens county prison. The local district attorney leads an extensive drug bust, sweeping her housing project with military precision. Dee soon discovers that she has been charged as a drug dealer. Even though she has no prior drug record and no drugs were found on her in the raid, she is offered a hellish choice: plead guilty and go home as a convicted felon or remain in prison, jeopardizing her custody and risking a long prison sentence. She chooses to fight the unyielding criminal justice system, risking everything in a battle that forever changes her life and the Texas justice system
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One thing that was a little hard to get over
seeker98722 September 2010
It has nothing to do with the actors and the director, because the performances were dead on. I was very extremely disgusted with the racists and racist system that allowed this type of injustice to happen.

However, what I also found myself disgusted and distracted by, was the main character herself. I struggled with rallying behind a single mother who chose (that's right, chose) to have four children on a waitress' salary and 3 different baby daddies (Before anyone feels the need to point out that there are men out there not taking care of their responsibilities, that just means that there are two, or in this case, 4 guilty parties. It doesn't absolve her of any guilt). I also struggled with the fact that the victims in the movie were driven more by concern about the loss of their food stamps and other public support, rather than justice actually being served. I guess my general bottom line issue is that they managed to create a movie where I didn't particularly like or care what happened to a single character. On one hand, you have a pack of the nastiest type of racists, and on the other, you have a bunch of walking stereotypes that supply them with ammunition.
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ichocolat13 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was recommended by a friend to watch this film, and it is his reminder to me to watch it first without having perceptions and not to come up with prejudged notions.

I did just that.

So I watched the film until the end credits, and I understood why my friend asked me not to make assumptions.

It is because of the nature of the film. It involves a very delicate subject matter; race. The nature of the film itself will make anybody aligns him/herself to make judgment based on the racial background. And it is hard to be objective about this matter.

This film is based on a true story of a colored girl who was wrongly picked up & accused of things she did not do. Instead of taking a plea bargain, she stood up for herself, to ensure her freedom & her children welfare are taken care of.

This film featured a newcomer to the film industry, & I think that she did justice to her character; she was believable & were able to make people sympathize with her.

What I like about this film is its nature, of prejudging human not based on what he/she did, but based on the color of his/her race.

& the fact that in the cultured United States boggles my mind. I mean, this is a county who portrays itself as being at the pinnacle of a cultured world, of being a model country where other countries are forced to look up to.

I live in Malaysia; a country blessed with numerous races who shared the country. it consists of many races, mainly the Malays, Chinese, Indians & others.

Race is still an issue in this country, especially since the political parties aligned themselves to races, who fight to 'protect & preserve' their respective race. However, they still manage to ensure that racial issues are settled amicably without resulting to civil unrest. & this is a country who got its independence in 1957! So to learn that United States are still finding racial background to be an issue is somewhat intriguing.

I seriously hope that the world community will treat each other with respect, regardless of color. Surely the world will be a better place.
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Wow!! Excellent movie!
lynnecassell2 February 2010
I just watched this movie and would recommend it to all my friends and family. It is a drama based on a true story that happened in Texas. The movie is not the kind that you can't bring yourself to watch because of too much violence. Excellent performances, especially by the strong women roles, and most especially by the beautiful Nicole Beharie. The movie shows how unfair our legal system can be when the people running the show are biased and full of hatred just because someone is of a different color. I especially loved American Violet because the ACLU fought for justice and Dee Roberts, (Beharie) refused to be beat down by the system into accepting a plea bargain when she knew she was not guilty. She stood up for herself, even though she had to endure harassment and threats, but came out a winner in the end. Justice won! I love those kind of "feel good" stories. I think I'll go out and buy it.
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Gripping urban drama based on true-life events of a black woman swept up in a drug war in her housing complex.
theauntsavant1 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If you've ever doubted that truth could be stranger than fiction, you won't after viewing American Violet. Based on true events surrounding reluctant and (as a stereotypical unwed teen mom working as a waitress)—unlikely heroine under the pseudonym Dee Roberts, the 2008 release depicts one woman's story. Starting with her arrest in Texas in late 2000, it sheds light on the virtual police state imposed upon residents of a besieged housing project where Roberts, her children, the father of two of her four daughters, and his girlfriend live. The storyline, however, culminates differently then usual Hollywood-scripted endings, in early 2002.

You'll be shocked and appalled as the real-life saga, at times more harrowing than a roller coaster ride, unfolds. Multi-layered with a multitude of insightful twists and turns throughout, including Roberts' volatile relationship with her babies' daddy and their embittered back and forth custody battle; you can't write this stuff.

The filmmakers note the Texas community represents a microcosm of many U.S. cities plagued by similar problems that exist all over America, and Roberts quickly learns 'the truth will not always set you free.' At the heart of the compelling urban drama is the profound impact of a singular change in Texas judicial law that significantly impacts the penal system, which potentially affects scores of minorities. Thousands were literally swept up in the nearly ten-year, tyrannical reign of terror led by the bigoted district attorney against inhabitants of the public complex to insure they reached maximum numbers of drug convictions.

While the cast features mostly unknowns in key supporting parts, veteran stage, screen and TV stars Alfre Woodard (the first black neighbor on Desperate Housewives) as Roberts' mother, and former Roc series lead Charles Dutton in the pivotal role of the local reverend. Hip Hop icon Xzibit, plays Roberts' ex. Brooklyn, NY native Malcolm Barrett distinguishes himself as the second ACLU attorney helping to bring down the corrupt D.A. and overtly racist drug enforcement agency.

Directed by Tim Disney, grandnephew of Walt, American Violet is world's apart from the classic animated features and family-oriented comedies the family business was built on. This Disney is adapting serious themes to entertain, as well as inform and enlighten.
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Familiar formula
manaen manaen20 April 2009
A competent edition of the familiar formula: oppressed individual or group, with help from outside hero(es), stand(s) up for what's right against local bad guys and (drum roll, dramatic pause, cymbal crash) wins!!! As my wife said, "This isn't a movie, it's TV." . This movie's plot is reliably predictable and the bad guys are thoroughly 2-dimensional so you won't have to worry about missing anything when stepping out for munchies or about any lingering sympathy for the bad guys when they get their oh-so-well-deserved comeuppance. . But Nicole Beharie is nice to look at and the world is in order by the end of the film, so you can spend a couple hours without becoming too annoyed -- or involved.
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Advocacy/cautionary tale full of holes
Matt Gilbert15 November 2008
Muckraker film makes for interesting socio-political cautionary tale, but plot is full of holes and lacks depth. Racism is a delicate subject to cover, and in our current political climate, generally can't be covered with nuance and depth. Will Patton gives a fine performance as the local white attorney who takes a courageous stand. His character has an arc, but the rest are flat. Nicole Beharie is beautiful and charming, and turns in a fine performance with the substandard material she's given. That said, is Texas Stalinist Russia in that people are hauled away in broad daylight, without charges or Miranda Rights? I thought the case would have been thrown out on that basis alone. More plot holes - lots - but I would prefer to avoid spoilers. Not terrible, only fair.
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Bigger Problem is Rampant Abuse of Government Support for Ms. Kelly and her 4 children.
frapestanherr9 August 2010
Ms. Kelly was correct regarding the bias in the drug raids.

On the other hand, there is a larger social issue here. Ms. Kelly is the never married single mother who cannot positively say which multiple men,some in jail for various crimes, fathered each of her 4 children.

Ms, Kelly made many obviously bad decisions. The result is that she and her children receive government subsidized housing, free medical and dental care, food stamps, welfare, breakfast and lunch free at school plus free after school and summertime care.

Hardworking taxpayers who make good, moral choices will be forced to support Ms. Kelly and her children for decades to come. And Ms. Kelly is just one such example.

Enough is enough. This culture Ms. Kelly belongs to needs to change and stop, ASAP. There needs to be a sequel movie to address these abuses.
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Every culture will not have the same view
MoonBloo1 October 2009
I don't think Americans see it as being like that.

What you say is like Stalin's Russia, they call their Patriot Act.

It is just their culture, and their beliefs.

From their point of view, what may seem to somebody else like just a business matter, they are taught that this is their duty and their fate.

They used to call it "Manifest Destiny." Anyway, this is not really the place to discuss all of that.

The point is that you can watch ten movies from ten different countries, and you will be able to find at least ten different perspectives that may be different from the one you have.
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