The systemic racism and flagrant discrimination against people of colour that still exists, especially in the southern parts of the US, could not be more artfully portrayed than in the new Outlier Society— Warner Bros feature film, Just Mercy.
It stars Jamie Fox as Walter McMillian, a black man sitting on death row, convicted for a murder of a white woman that he did not commit and Michael B Jordan, who played the ‘bad brother’ Killmonger who came to Wakanda to seize the throne from his half-brother in Black Panther.
As Bryan Stevenson, Jordon plays the Harvard-trained civil rights lawyer who’s made it his life mission to liberate innocent black men from the shackles of post-modern slavery that finds them incarcerated and inexorably lined up on death row in the USA.
Just Mercy is a film that’s sure to debunk any illusion that one might still hold that America is the ‘home of the free’. It’s a film that’s right on time as the world (including many Americans) wake up to what’s been described as America’s ‘original sin’, that is the enslavement of African people starting as far back as 1619 when the first Africans were brought in bondage to Richmond, Virginia.
The ‘I can’t breathe’ murder of George Floyd effectively illustrated the ongoing nature of systemic racism and the life-threatening nature of black people’s everyday lives. It’s also amplified the role of the Black Lives Matter social movement in further raising national and international awareness of the need to finally challenge the systems that have historically oppressed people of colour in order that they finally may be free.
Based on Bryan Stevenson’s award-winning memoir, Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption, the film is unabashed in its portrait of racism and the mean-spirited extent to which white people will go to keep black people enslaved in one way or other. But the film also presents the power of hope and the value of persistence and perseverance, qualities that Stevenson has in abundance. Against all odds, he defiantly outwits the entire racist system by ultimately trusting the rule of law as well as a higher power.
Racists largely stole the rule of law in Alabama where the story is set, with Stevenson meeting roadblock after roadblock with inexhaustible energy and indefatigable ingenuity. Everyone in town has been corrupted by racism (which is why it’s seen as systemic). From the local sheriff to the judge hearing the solid evidence that Stevenson unearths to prove Walter’s innocence, the system is rigged, entrenched to ensure Walter and Stevenson won’t win. But the lawyer perseveres and ultimately, ‘Just Mercy’ is about the triumphant power of hope and grace.
The acting of both Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx was deeply affecting. Just watching the film’s trailer is weep-able. The injustice of centuries is finally being exposed even as the film proves the transformative power of art to illustrate powerful stories that are highly instructive and inspirational as well.