For more than two decades, Attorney Benjamin Crump has been at the forefront of protecting black lives in America. His cases involved the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Andre Hill and many others. When the American justice system refused to be a level playing field, Crump and his team filed civil cases so families could get some monetary justice where the criminal justice system didn’t work for them.
Now, with her latest Netflix documentary Civil, Becoming Director Nadja Hallgren tells the audience about one year in the life of Prosecutor Kramp. The documentary follows Crump as he consistently advocated for black lives and humanity, not only in cases of police brutality, but also against racist banking structures and businesses that prioritized profit over protecting black lives.
ahead Civil Premiering at the opening of the American Black Film Festival, Shadow and Act spoke with Crump and director Hallgren about the documentary and why it’s more timely than ever.
“Ben is such a unique person,” Hallgren shared, reflecting on her decision to include personal elements of Prosecutor Crump’s life. “We’ve seen a lot of documentaries about lawyers, but Ben is different. And the advantage that he has, I thought it was really important not only to understand who he is as a man and what drives him and his motives, but how he became who he is. Ben has learned a lot from being an omega and from his relationship with his grandmother and mother. He talks about these things every day when he finds himself in a difficult situation or he needs to make decisions. He builds on this experience. We thought it was so important to share with the audience. Civil this is a story about a man. This is a story about America.”
A flight to black pain to be a balm for grieving families and a devastated society has taken a toll on Kramp’s attorney. AT Civil, he reveals that he has a recurring nightmare that he is running out of time. “I never realized how much I rubbed my forehead after meeting families and so on,” Crump said. “Maybe it’s some sort of stress management mechanism. I don’t think I can afford to dwell on my personal feelings because you have to stay focused on the mission. If you don’t, we will lose. Sure, a therapist would say it’s not good, but I’m trying to work harder because I feel like I’m running out of time. three teenagers were killed in a few weeks – 15, 18 and 19 years old. And I’m like, “Dude, they’re killing us way too fast. We need to do more because I’m trying to prevent it.” .’ So that’s what I do.”
As a cinematographer and director, Hallgren and her team have stood by Prosecutor Krump’s side, testifying to the aftermath of some of the most painful times in a person’s life. “I have been working in film for 20 years,” Hallgren said. “Being in different situations around the world, behind the camera, filming, you know how it is. Then when you get back to your hotel, you sort of process what happened. We sometimes allowed ourselves to be emotional. to be in a cell and my eyes would water. Ben has such a point of view and such a voice of reason. I learned a lot from him, and you can see how he navigates dealing with grieving people. I learned a lot by watching him. what.”
Keeping up with Attorney Crump’s schedule was also a new experience for Hallgren. “I got off Becoming, working with Michelle Obama, where her schedule is booked weeks in advance,” she explained. “She doesn’t do anything that isn’t planned because of the Secret Service and things like that. With Ben, his mode of communication was a text message with a screenshot and a location, meaning “If you’re inside, we’ll be here.” We’ll try to get to where he was before him. We had a rental car when he got off the plane. We’d say, “We’re here, Ben.” So that’s how we figured out a good flow with him because he’s on the move. And each ticket was one way, because you never know when you will go next time, and you just packed your bags to be free. Many times we went to a place and he asked, “Can we drive four hours to another city?” Because something happened and we’ll go with it. We followed along.
With the advent of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, things often seem helpless as we constantly watch black and brown people in this country face ongoing racism, microaggressions, violence, and outright death. This can cause feelings of hopelessness and despair. But how Civil shows that there are many ways to help move the needle forward, even if it seems slow and hard-won. “We are blessed,” Attorney Crump said. “And shame on us if we don’t use these blessings to try and help those who don’t have a voice.”
Civil It premiered at the American Black Film Festival on June 15, 2022. The film will premiere on Netflix on June 15th.
Aramid A. Tinubu is a film critic, consultant and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been featured in Tudum, EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire, and Netflix’s Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and the Loss of Parents in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She is a film buff, bookworm, blogger, and graduate of New York and Columbia Universities. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide, or tweet her @wordwitharamide.