Benjamin Cramp has a unique position in American society. The lawyer has well represented families whose loved ones were killed by the police: Trayvon Martin, Breona Taylor and George Floyd are just a few of his most high-profile cases. But Cramp is a civil lawyer, not a prosecutor. You cannot sue the officers involved in these cases, nor can you guarantee that they will be held accountable for their actions. What it can and does is help affected families receive some financial compensation.
But Cramp is also a major public figure, known for his direct presence in almost every tragedy. He is accused of saddening black families and using these incidents for personal gain. Nadia Holgren CivilNetflix’s new documentary about the trial is an attempt to rectify this tense narrative, to close the curtain on Cramp as a person and his work.
It suffers from a lack of rigor.
admired portrait, Civil It works almost exclusively in the shade. The first time we see a man the Reverend Al Sharpton calls “Black America’s Attorney General,” he’s shrouded in darkness. He’s standing in front of a wide window, holding a phone. A previously recorded conversation between Cramp and George Floyd’s cousin Terra is recorded. He knows his cousin has been killed and wants Cramp’s advice on how to move forward. He agrees to represent the family and promises Earth that he is not alone. The sequence of this grand opening was explored, almost to some extent in execution.
This tension bothers the film and its subject matter. Cramp is an experienced speaker: he knows what to say and is in a hurry to use clichés. He sees his work as part of a larger quest for justice: a way the system works for these families and helps America justify its ideals. He speaks of his influence in divine, almost sacred words: “Everything in my career has led me to the work of George Floyd,” he says at one point early in the film.
Such feelings are part of a larger message that can be difficult to receive. And yet the work he does is important to the many families who come to him. Throughout the film, Holgren, who followed Kramp from 2020 to 2021, portrays the delicate moments of connection between the lawyer and some of his clients, Kramp and his family or community. These scenes try to soften a highly curated public image.
The year Derek Shawn murdered George Floyd was a turning point in American self-mythology. Inside CivilCramp speaks of Floyd’s death and the protests as an opportunity to heal the nation and as a critical event in his career. Dr. crosses today’s narrative with archival clips and interviews with Cramp about growing up in North Carolina and later Florida. After graduating from law school, Cramp refused to do much legal work to open a civil rights practice with his friend Daryl Park. They took personal injury cases in the early days as a means of hiring.
Cramp says police brutality cases are just part of his company’s workload. They receive hundreds of calls from clients seeking advice on a variety of subjects, from the misuse of discrimination to black clients with overdrafts at tax banks. Cramp is investigating cases of increased police brutality because he wants police to be financially banned from killing black people, a point he often repeats but does not specify. In addition to these trials, Cramp regularly appears at rallies and on television, poetically praising the nation’s justice and non-existent moral compass.
Civil It often feels more like commercial information than a documentary. Most of the time, we see Cramp preparing for public speeches and talking vaguely on the phone about the cases he is discussing. Holgren (it happens) He tries to build tension and up the ante by filming Cramp from different angles and using close-ups liberally, but it’s hard to make legal cases interesting without courtroom props. What constitutes Cramp’s lawsuit is finely tuned: his reasons for getting the case remain vague to ensure blacks get justice. Civil He tries to cover up Cramp’s criticism, but is seen as worthy of consideration and as an attempt to downplay Cramp’s work. The film could have used more rigor to contextualize Cramp as a public figure.
For the most part, the subject appears most often as a crisis management consultant or image maker. Civil It is full of scenes in which a lawyer speaks to the families of the deceased, teaching them how to take their case before a court of public opinion. These are the bitterest moments to watch. Family members will share sweet stories and memories of their loved ones, while Cramp responds with condolences and sometimes an aphoristic comment that doesn’t always happen. I want to Civil He spent more time with these families whose lives were irreversibly altered by loss and grief.
What is justice like in a country and a system designed to deny and harm black people? Civil And Cramp mostly stays on the surface when it comes to that question, and that makes the non-biographical parts of the film frustrating. Two years after Floyd’s death, one year since police officer Derek Shawn was tried, the conversation about police brutality has deepened, and talking about it requires more specific language and intent. Civil At times, it seems to offer us an outdated notion of equality and justice, appealing to a conscience that fewer and fewer people believe America has.
Source: Hollywood Reporter