International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam 2001
At a time (i.e. post-WTC crisis) when Rudi Giuliani prepares to part with his
post and transfer command to the well-lubricated, Giuliani-supported,
ex-mayoral-candidate Michael R. Bloomberg, we are offered a picture of the
pains and torments experienced during the reign of "Zero Tolerance"
within one family when a boy was shot to death. The two police officers
responsible for this double shooting death included an ex-Giuliani volunteer
bodyguard who is, at one point during the film, referred to as a cowboy and
allegedly known to often carry three backup guns while on duty.
The investigation pursued by the parents of Tony Rosario presents even the
most pro-Giuliani New Yorker with some pretty difficult facts to reconcile.
Remember that even Mrs. Rosario must live with the fact that she once voted
for this man.
© Gabriel Films Inc., Reality Films, Channel< >4
photos courtesy of IDFA 2001
During 1995, two Puerto Ricans were shot in a Bronx apartment by two policemen
who later declared that, as officers, they had handled properly in self-defence
when these two boys had forced their way onto the premises supposedly with the
intention of robbing the residents. The case was closed in seven days, but the
mother of Antonio was left troubled by too many unanswered questions. She
couldn't reconcile the story told by the police with the contradictory reports
of others regarding the event. On top of this, the police report was at odds
with the image she had of her boy: a fairly intelligent young man, who both had
the intention of soon starting his own business and was shortly due to become a
father. Surely, she thought, he had too much invested in his life to attempt a
petty crime such as described in the police report. Other reports suggested
that Antonio and his cousin (the second victim) were acquainted with the
residents of the apartment and had been visiting, as previously arranged, in
order to collect a debt that was long overdue.
Mrs. Rosario's pursuit of the truth behind the incident opened more than one
can of worms, especially after she gained the assistance of the Civilian
Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an independent office maintained to keep an eye
on the activities of the NYPD. The Board began to discover one odd fact after
another until they mounted up sufficiently to create certain doubts with regard
to the "official report" of this so-called crime. The CCRB concluded
that the police had undoubtedly used unnecessary violence in their handling of
the boys during the incident. Shortly afterward, the head of the CCRB
investigation team was fired from his position; others on the team were also
dismissed. A further embarrassment in this case was yet another report by an
independent pathologist who, after making a thorough study of the two cadavers,
discovered that all the bullets had apparently been fired into the boys from
behind or from the side as the boys lay prostate on the apartment floor.
The attitude of the powerful exerting their influence over the middle-classes
(and, naturally, inferring similar activities against the underclasses) is more
than amply exemplified by Giuliani himself during his talk-radio presentation
(broadcast from the World Trade Center) when unexpectedly receiving a phone
call from Mrs. Rosario. Director Jon Osman and producer Jonathan Stack had
cameras cleverly positioned for this moment, both on location by Giuliani as
well as Rosario, thereby facilitating a revealing split-screen image of the
actual event; the total effect is not lost on anyone. Giuliani doesn't allow
Mrs. Rosario to get a word in edgewise and attempts, rather unsuccessfully, to
make himself look as sympathetic as possible while simultaneously trying to
tear her arguments apart. This approach, he quickly realizes, doesn't work.
Something, it would seem, citizens, isn't only rotten in the state of Denmark.
A vast number of Afro-, Asian-, and Hispanic Americans who have found their
premature end during the past few years becomes painfully apparent to all
those with even a limited acquaintance of New York affairs when, at one point,
a variety of newspaper headlines flash across the screen.
Helpless to do anything about her son's death, Mrs. Rosario has maintained her
active involvement in combating similar injustices by setting up Parents
Against Police Brutality with the hope that other parents may possibly be
spared a similar predicament.
The unexpected events of 911 in New York City, which have resulted in large
scale re-editing as well as rescheduling of premiere dates for several
super-Hollywood-action flicks (examples include Arnold's firefighter appearance
as Gorden Brewer in "Collateral Damage" and the unfortunate, untimely
thrust of Peter Parker's web in "Spider-Man") have had, one can
easily understand, an even more devastating impact upon this documentary.
Producer Jonathan Stack originally believed that this latest offering from his
production company, Gabriel Films, would be seeing the light around
mid-September, but the trumpet blowing heralded another destiny.
The world needs its heroes and Rudi Giuliani has become one of them since
September 11th (NB - even to the extent of being knighted for his efforts by
the Queen of England). Stack, realizing that he was about to release a film
aimed at Giuliani and the New York City police which renders a strong, clear,
and effective argument about the system, knew that no one would be able to
accept such a film at the present moment, and therefore decided to pull it.
Unable to be released in America, the film will nevertheless be enjoying its
world premiere in Amsterdam during the IDFA. To make matters surrounding
"Justifiable Homicide" even more sensitive stateside, the film's
director, Jon Osman, who worked exhaustively for a year and a half
reconstructing the entire series of events connected with the affair,
originally hails from Afghanistan. One wonders what the reaction (of New
Yorkers in particular) will be when and if the film ever receives an American
release. (Let's hope that the Mr. Stack is thoughtful enough to invite Mr.
Bloomberg to attend the eventual N.Y. premiere.)
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett