A story about a single incident of police brutality told from both sides. Inspired by the deaths of Oscar Grant and Sean Bell.
“Bruise” follows two converging storylines. In the first, a group of five African-American collegians with bright futures set out to blow off some steam by attending a raucous house party a month before they graduate. Bryan has just been accepted to law school at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and is wrestling with what the future might hold after graduation for his fledgling, yet serious, relationship with Alanna, who plans on attending med school at NYU. Bryan’s best friend is the jaded and moody Eric, who made it into college despite a rough upbringing and strives to succeed so as to not fall to the same fate as his incarcerated older brother. Vincent is the intellectual; yet fun loving, comedian of the group that provides the much needed balance between Eric and Bryan. Jasmine is Alanna’s ambitious, yet edgy, roommate that decides to tag along on this night despite a complicated history with Eric. On this same night, two uniform cops; the measured and level-headed family man, Stephens, Africa-American, and his veteran partner Peters, Caucasian; are on the night shift making their rounds around the city. Unbeknownst to them, the events of the night bring these two groups closer and closer together, finally colliding at the end with tragic results. The film is inspired by the shootings of Oscar Grant, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo.
Thematically, “Bruise” is an attempt at a conversation between two groups that historically have been at odds. With this film, we are trying to explore who each of these characters are as a representation of these two sides in order to understand them better and, in turn, help them understand each other better.
Because of the various past and present incidents of police brutality, the conversation has largely been an argument based on an “us vs. them” dynamic which could potentially be the perpetual cause of these tragic incidents. At the very core of this story is the seed of mistrust. This includes African-American men not trusting police officers in their communities because they feel more like arbitrary targets or threats than they do actual citizens of the world and police officers not trusting African-American men because of the real danger of police work in large cities, of which some sectors happen to be populated by heavily African-American demographics. This mistrust is steeped in fear, on both sides. It is this fear that leads to unhealthy assumptions about people and deep seeded prejudices that tragically tend to surface in mere moments in high intensity situations.
These types of incidents lead to tempered expectations for young African-American men and boys that see all that is happening around them and see a world that doesn’t wish them to succeed and doesn’t value their lives. They see a world where entire institutions, like the police force, are set in place against them when that same institution should be in place to protect them as is their basic right as citizens and human beings. Police officers, on the other hand, are left with the arduous task of protecting themselves in a dangerous job that sometimes calls for quick decisions and quick action unless they want to see themselves as the victim. They are then viewed by the community at large, not as human beings that are sometimes prone to making terrible mistakes like any other human being, but as nothing more than a uniform and a badge, a symbol of an institution that is viewed as antagonistic and oppressive in some communities. Then, when tragedy strikes, the quick judgment assigned to them is that they are bigots and nothing more.
With “Bruise”, we have chosen to explore the possibility that there may be more nuance to these tragedies and that the victims of police brutality are more than just symbols and martyrs, but human beings, and that the police officers who are responsible for these incidents, and police officers at large, are more than just agents of oppression but also, human beings. We have decided that this issue may be more complicated so we have opted against choosing a side and instead have decided to bring both sides to the table in an effort to achieve understanding. Our mission is to make a film that helps people understand. Who are these people? Why does this keep happening? How can we make it stop?
Bruise Director’s Statement by Ryan Lipscomb
I wanted to tell a story that was relevant to me and to people like me. When I decided to become a filmmaker I told myself that I would use my platform to say important things. Growing up, the films that I admired most, were those that made statements, that attacked subjects that no one wanted to talk about but needed to be addressed. With these films, you could agree or disagree but they forced you to think and that was monumental enough. Today, if you watch any of those films, you can say that this was something that was happening at that time and in some ways still happening. You have to ask yourself, “Since this film was made. How have we gotten better? How have we gotten worse?” It was these kinds of films that made me want to become a filmmaker.
In this climate, I’ve had to look around and wonder what hasn’t really been addressed. What’s important to me? What causes me to have a visceral reaction when I see, or don’t see, it on the news? That’s when I started to look towards Oakland and the Oscar Grant shooting. Over a year ago, as I watched people march through the streets protesting the unjust killing of a young man and the lack of justice for him, I began to write this script. As I wrote, I thought about the grainy video footage of the shooting and how angry I was when I first saw it. I thought about how, with every killing like this, I feel an intense emotional reaction, as if I’ve lost someone close to me, as if the person that was lost WAS me. I began to think about the countless others that came before him and those that would come after. Enter Trayvon Martin. I began to think about how, in most of these cases, the persons responsible were let off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. I began to think of my own brief interactions with police officers and how I always felt uncomfortable around them and how I’ve always looked at the uniform as more of a signal of a threat than safety. I began to wonder who these people were. Then, as I continued to write, I began to wonder how things like this keep happening. When I finished contemplating, I was left with a story about one night in the lives of a group of college kids on their way to a house party and a pair uniformed police officers riding around on their shift.
“Bruise” is my exploration of this subject matter. Its an attempt to get to know the “victims” and the “victimizers” and try to understand both sides of the coin. I believe that these situations are caused by two forces that don’t trust each other colliding at the wrong times. My goal is to start a dialogue. For me, as a black man, it would be easy for me to demonize police officers but that’s not the purpose of this film. I think that police officers go into certain situations ready for anything, too ready at times ,and they let their own preconceived notions and inherent mistrust, or underlying prejudices, towards certain social-economical backgrounds influence their split second decision making.
Likewise, I have my own inherent mistrust of the uniform based on personal experience and historical precedent. That’s not to say that all police officers are bad. I’ve known officers that are genuinely good people that care about the job and serving the community. However, when young, unarmed, black men keep being shot by the people that are supposed to protect them, then you have to wonder what world we live in that allows this to happen. So, in this film, I follow the kids and the cops over one night like any other. They’re two trains that are set on a collision course.
I hope to God that we never hear about another innocent person shot unjustly by police officers. I feel that this type of thing is no longer acceptable in our world today. This film is my response to the institutions that make these types of senseless killings possible. This film is also my tribute to not only the Oscar Grants, and Sean Bells, and Amadou Diallo’s of the world, but also for the countless other unnamed victims that didn’t make national headlines. This film is my attempt to make a statement about the world we live in like those films that were such an influence on me in my youth. This film is my attempt to add something meaningful to the dialogue.
Your donations are crucial to the success of this project. The money goes to help pay for all of the immediate costs of production. This includes camera, lighting and grip equipment; production design and props; locations; security; expendables; food for the crew and much more. It also pays for post-production costs. This includes picture editing, color-timing, sound mixing, and scoring. Once the film is completely finished, we plan on distributing this film to all of the major festivals and your donations will also help with the submission fees. Ryan Lipscomb and all of the filmmakers would greatly appreciate your help with this passion project. Its something we believe in immensely and we would like you join us and become a part of our filmmaking family as we work diligently to make this film a reality. Thank you so much.
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