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American Violet
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Reviews & Ratings for
American Violet More at IMDbPro »

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39 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

An Important and compelling story that needed to be told

8/10
Author: JustCuriosity from Austin, TX, United States
15 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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31 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Don't Miss - Tough Story Packs a Punch and is a Lesson for us all

10/10
Author: Susan Dunn from United States
16 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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21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Gripping tale that becomes of the year's best films of 2008

9/10
Author: rcj5365 from Durham, North Carolina
18 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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16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Worth Seeing

7/10
Author: jrmcoach from United States
6 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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29 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Worth watching to see the other truth...

9/10
Author: chatkinson from Decatur, Georgia
25 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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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Great cast and the good story over comes the weakness in the telling

7/10
Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
14 August 2009

*** This review may contain 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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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Breakthrough Role for Nicole Beharie

8/10
Author: Spirit Equality from United States
23 April 2009

*** This review may contain 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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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Important Information - Educational

10/10
Author: Daisy38 from United States
28 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.

Thanks.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Must see movie -- important story

8/10
Author: pj-naturalfinance from toronto
27 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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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A strong woman struggling to prove her innocence

9/10
Author: Miss Naughtia from Denmark
13 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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