Kenny Leons’ ‘American Son’ depicts an illusion of modern Racism


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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JULY 07: Tyler Perry speaks on stage at 2019 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana

Quinae Austin, Staff Writer

Any title with American in it has to hold some heavy weight, and unfortunately “American Son” did not.

Also not to toot Tyler Perry’s horn or anything but, it’s safe to say that not every play is good when transferring to the screen.

Although Broadway’s play writer Christopher Demos Brown may have thought he did his best. His best was bye-far not good enough, considering all the errors in the film.

Though it will be said the script was written amazingly to prove his point on race in America. Granted; plays are lengthy and able to build emotion for characters with time and patience, whereas a film, scenes can be rushed at times due to a director trying to fit a whole story line into a time constraint.

In Brown’s case his film constraint consisted of 90 minutes, all in a Miami Police Station.

Where an African American mother Kerry Washington “Kendra” played tug or war with the officer on duty for nearly 30 minutes to get information about her son “Jamal’s” whereabouts.

Her quest for information became much deeper than the normal hierarchy clash with the police, it actually becomes more of an eye opener to institutional racism.

That was shown clearly after Jamal’s father “Scott” Caucasian walks in the station and immediately the cop gravitates to him with a friendly manner explaining how he’s dealing with some crazy black lady about her son going missing.

Only to realizes he is Kendra’s husband who is Jamal’s father and also an F.B.I agent who is just as crazy as “Kendra.” The cop continues to stall, but shortly after Scott made it to the station the cop just so happened to have information about Jamal’s whereabouts after an hour.

But while this back and fourth is going on between his parents and the police officer the director had lacked to give us any back story. One had to imagine what Jamal looked like, even though his mom did tell the cop while giving a description. But if someone missed that part they would have never known.

It was also extremely inpatient when waiting for the police and listening to his parents argue about interracial prejudice thoughts, in that same lobby! They couldn’t have gone outside, sat in the car, or even went back home. But the directors only scene change was when Kendra asked for water and the cop instructed her to the water fountain out back, reminding her of the days of slavery when the fountain was African Americans only option.

Some of his depictions were very accurate in today’s modern day racism, but others were maybe a stretch and illusion of what it may be like.

The film makes one question if Caucasian fathers may have reservations about their own children if he or she is mixed. It also implied that it is always a motive behind interracial relationships.

Brown did not realize the amount of detail he had to show in a film when trying to get across such a huge point. Detail is important, even down to the the films rooms lighting plays apart in making sure what was set out to fulfill is what is projected. He could have used a lot more detail, and personally needs to stick to plays where he can give the audience a full experience especially when movies like Crash clearly show America’s racism scandal.