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American Violet

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American Violet

Alfre Woodward and Nicole Behari in a scene from 'American Violet.'

Samuel Goldwyn Films
Tim Disney's American Violet is based on the true story of Dee Roberts (Nicole Behari), a single black mother from a small Texas town who is dragged out of work in handcuffs for trafficking drugs during an aggressive raid on a housing project. The year is 2000. As fellow Texan George W. Bush is ushered into America's highest office, a community of impoverished African Americans are herded into the prisons without just cause.
In Melody, Texas, you are guilty until proven innocent. The majority of the victims of the raid -- uneducated, without financial recourse, and terrified of long prison terms -- accept the plea bargains offered by the District Attorney rather than risking trial. Dee, however, refused to cave, choosing to remain in prison, away from her four girls, facing a bail she can't afford to pay, strident in her innocence. When the ACLU comes into town, they enlist Dee to their cause: social justice for the unfairly persecuted black population. She becomes the plaintiff in a groundbreaking case against the District Attorney and the local police force for racial profiling.
The premise of American Violet sounds didactic. Without a doubt, American Violet is an important film: Dee's true story effectively documents a legal system that systematically prosecutes and imprisons an extraordinarily high percentage of the nation's most vulnerable citizens -- for a profit. But just as important, American Violet is a fine film. Dee Roberts is not an abstract symbol of injustice. To watch a mother be wrenched away from her children is heartrending.

As portrayed by the impressive performance of Nicole Behari, in her first starring role, Dee is an intensely appealing character: hard-working and kind, but also impulsive and in possession of a mighty temper. She is courageous. She is real. She is, perhaps, slightly too attractive for the role, but that was also the case of Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich -- and she won an Oscar.

American Violet (2009)

Starring: Nicole Beharie, Tim Blake Nelson, Will Patton, Michael O'Keefe, Xzibit
Directed by: Tim Disney
Produced by: Peter Newman, Bill Haney, Debra Longo
Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: April 17th, 2009 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, violence, drug references and language.
Distributors: Samuel Goldwyn Film
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