Produced by Amman Abbasi,
Lachion Buckingham, Alexander Uhlmann
Written by Amman Abbasi, Steven Reneau
Directed by Amman Abbasi
Starring Devin Blackmon, Dontrell Bright,
Lachion Buckingham, Kordell Johnson,
Marquell Manning, Chasity Moore
Amman Abbasi’s debut film opens with a young man riding his bike along an empty road in rural Arkansas.
It’s the first of many things you experience in Dayveon that isn’t typical of a coming of age gang story.
Abbasi is pretty clear that was his intention because he says gangs and Arkansas have a different depth than they do in Chicago, Los Angeles and other more urban settings.
It’s important to know this going in, because if you start the movie expecting to see Colors, Boyz In the Hood or American Me you will be disappointed and there is a lot to like about this movie.
First, at 75 minutes, the film is too short.
There are areas where I would have expected some more depth of storytelling and character development and it never happened. It is more like a chapter of a story than a full story. It’s the middle of a beginning, middle and end. This should not dissuade you from seeing Dayveon. It’s an outstanding first effort from a virgin writer/director and I am excited to see what’s next.
Authenticity. The shockingly authentic script, performances and visuals are incredibly compelling. For Abbasi to wrangle his first time behind the camera with a cast entirely made up of first time actors is an achievement. Abbasi’s process was meticulous and it shows in the film. His lack of arrogance in the production of the film is what led to such an amazing result. He wrote the script and then took it to at-risk youth in Arkansas. He took their feedback and re-wrote anything that was inauthentic. Abbasi humbly crafted his vision around reality to tell one of the more authentic stories you can see.
How do you get realistic performances out of first time actors? You drill them. Abbasi took months to find his cast and then put them through hours and hours of rehearsal daily. The result was scenes with no wasted motion, professionally delivered lines and authentic emotion from the cast. It was clear there was a commitment to excellence in the making of this film and while the story could have been expanded in places, this film is artful.
The artistry in the script and acting is clear, and the visuals are deep and meaningful.
Even the first scene, with Dayveon riding his bike on endlessly winding roads, tells a story in its own right. There are magnificent scenes highlighting the natural beauty of Arkansas while the story takes you in a darker direction. The contrast provides a powerful amplification to everything you see on the screen.
I’m jumping on the Amman Abbasi bandwagon right now. I expect to see him accepting an Oscar one day and I want to be able to say I predicted it way back in 2017.
4 out 5 stars