Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jahar: Short Film Review

An Alternative View of the Alleged Marathon Bomber. Loyalty or Treachery? Did he do it?

On Saturday, April 23, 2016 I attended the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to see the 13 minute student film entitled, "Jahar" at the Bow Tie Cinema in the neighborhood of Chelsea. 

"In the days after the Boston Marathon bombing, a young man must come to terms with the fact that one of his friends is involved," reads the blurb on the Film Fest schedule. The director, Henry Hayes, was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. He moved to New York in 2011 to attend NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He now lives in Brooklyn and works as a commercial editor.

The screenwriters were Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Henry Hayes. The cast was only four actors: Devante Lawrence, Andre Ozim, Andrew Raia, and Alberto Rosende.

The film starts out with the young men watching the TV news, which is announcing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan as the Boston Marathon bombers. Then it cuts to "Two Years Earlier." Jahar is portrayed as a short, dorky white guy, even though in reality he is over 6 feet tall. He is shown in high school being ridiculed. "What kind of name is Dzhokhar?"

His friend defends him, saying, "His name is Jahar." His friends, two black and one white, treat Jahar in an inclusive, yet condescending way. "That's my nigga right there," says "Mo" as they hang out in the basketball court smoking blunts. "That's my boy, my brother." They also call him "Jizz," which Jahar was clearly not comfortable about. Their conversation is vacuous.

In Jahar's mother's version of events, Tamerlan told her he was on his way to pick up Jahar from school, when the police started chasing them. In this film version of events, Jahar gets a call on his cell phone after his friends asked him for a ride somewhere. "Sorry, I got to go help my brother," he says. "Help him with what?" they ask. "I don't know," Jahar answers and leaves.

Without any transition, the film cuts to the three friends minus Jahar standing back on the basketball court in communal shock, contemplating what had just happened.
Only Jahar's friend, "Mo" was loyal. "Who was the one who drove us all home that night after the party? Eight drunk guys and one in the trunk and he was able to get us past the police. We know him," Mo insisted. The "Mo" character is supposed to be the screenwriter, Zolan.

But the other friend says, "I don't know man. Do we really know him?"

"That's our boy, that's our nigga," Mo continues to insist.

The film ends with the FBI asking Mo, "What was he like?"

After the film, native New Yorker Karina asked the director and artists if deep down inside they may think he's innocent? Any time in their mind did they ever think he was framed?

"They both said no they do not think he's framed, they believe he's guilty, and both looked at me like I had 10 heads. Rude, and clearly ignorant, making a film without any real research into the case," Kitty told NT. "I'm pissed at the producers who are so arrogant... They loving the success of this while their "friend" is on death row for something he didn't do."

Whether he was innocent or guilty, one would expect more personal concern from true friends. It was a very disappointing reaction, since the movie was actually quite moving regarding the one friend's defense of Jahar. It made me think a lot about loyalty.

Clearly, these young men were capitalizing off the fact that they knew the Boston Bomber in high school, without engaging in any character development or political challenge. The film seems quickly thrown together rather than deeply thought out. It only made the festival due to the high profile content. The line-up for the Question and Answer session had more participation from the makers of Jahar than from any other producers of short films, which added to my impression that the film was receiving special treatment. Zolan has now been given a job writing for the Boston Globe, at a time when many writers have been laid off.
"Seems strange that he would be right in with the propaganda media. Maybe that's the deal they offered him if he went along with the official narrative. The look on the actors face playing him at end made you think he got scared at that point," Karina told NT.

It was, on one hand, somewhat daring to stir up sympathy for the accused. However, the filmmakers' demeanor afterwards just made me think of traitors. Because if your friend truly did something like that, you would want to ask him why. Or if you believed he was innocent you would stand by that. The film gave the impression of some students that knew him superficially and decided to make themselves popular by using him.

"What was their point of making the film? For a different perspective? Why do they care about portraying a different perspective if they believe he's guilty? More questions than answers for me," said Nicole, who had driven from Vermont to see the film.

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