After capturing an illegal act of police violence on his cellphone, a Brooklyn street hustler sets off a series of events that alter the lives of a local police officer and a star high-school athlete.
‘Monsters and Men’ is a feature length motion picture that focuses on the impact of a police killing of an unarmed black man caught on camera in the tight-knit neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Inspired by Eric Garner’s controversial death by way of police excessive force, the film is told through the eyes of a bystander who films the deadly act, a conflicted African-American police officer, and a local high-school baseball star turned activist. The film explores the emotional and psychological implications on an entire community when pushed to the brink, offering an intimate portrayal of race, family, and consequence. ‘Monsters and Men’ is written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green; starring John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, and Kelvin Harrison Jr.
In an article with REMEZCLA, writer / director Reinaldo Marcus Green describes a late night heated conversation with a close friend and NYC police officer, about the graphic viral video capturing the untimely and controversial death of Eric Garner after resisting arrest in front of a Staten Island bodega. Their disparate viewpoints on whether or not the witnessed police excessive force was warranted, and the utter frustration Green felt in knowing that anyone could freely justify such horrific circumstances, inspired him to delve into his first feature film ‘Monsters and Men’. Green thought to himself, “just because he was resisting, that doesn’t mean he should be dead”. Furthermore, this unexpected argument led him to appreciate that multiple / polarizing perspectives on issues surrounding race and police brutality continue to thrive amongst many Americans. According to Green, this film would ultimately provide him the opportunity to become an active participant in the ever-expanding social justice conversation.
‘Monsters and Men’ is a socially provocative and powerfully poignant film that is directly inspired by a milieu of racially motivated injustices that have shaken the fabric of an entire nation. From Eric Garner’s death at the hands of police officers and subsequent arrest of Ramsey Orta who captured the tragic moments on his cell phone, to the random horrific assassination of two police officers in Brooklyn by a madman seeking revenge, Green’s film offers a glimpse into the psychological and emotional implications internalized by an entire community on the brink. Filmed on location in the vibrant Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Green has managed to explore deeply sensitive themes that permeate through countless communities of color in New York City, who are increasingly antagonized and surveilled by an omnipresent police state. In the same spirit of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film ‘The Battle of Algiers’, Green’s ‘Monsters and Men’ fearlessly tackles a contentious subject matter that continues to dramatically unfold in the same neighborhoods where the film was shot. The intrinsic characters explored in this film could quite easily function as mirrors of who we are as human beings, begrudgingly coming to terms with the fact that racism and oppression adversely affects everyone, not just a select few.
The film is structured in Triptych narrative form, with three intertwined characters: Manny, the innocent bystander who captures the incident on his cell phone; Zyric, the baseball athlete on the verge of stardom; Officer Dennis Williams, the police officer questioning his loyalty to the force. These struggling characters carry the emotional baton throughout film, leading viewers from one storied perspective to another, reacting to the visceral circumstances surrounding the death of a beloved community member in front of the neighborhood bodega. Through the intimate experiences of these three unique individuals, we begin to understand the internal conflicts that arise when one’s moral and ethical foundations are compromised, and the human fear, anger, and frustration some people experience when societal systems expect and demand silence in return.