The stars emerged from their limos. They walked the red carpet as cameras clicked.
The occasion: The premiere of a new film.
The location: College Street, Sunday night.
The stars: New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford teens and young adults.
The movie: The 5K Motion.
It wasn’t just any premiere. Sunday night’s red carpet event marked the release of a new film produced not by Hollywood, but by the New Haven Family Alliance, STOP Handgun Violence, and the REACH Foundation in conjunction with Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Over 450 people attended Sunday evening’s showing at Yale’s Sprague Hall. Family Alliance’s Shirley Ellis-West, who works in the agency’s street outreach program, organized the event.
The film’s producers auditioned over 100 teens and young adults from New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford. The goal: To tell the truth about how girls and young women get caught up in violent crimes. The enlisted not real actors but “real” people who’ve lived the life to portray the characters.
The movie’s title refers to a court request under which a federal judge is urged to “depart downward,” or shorten the amount of jail time in a sentence, based on “substantial assistance” provided by the defendant. Prosecutors use 5K motions to induce and reward both guilty pleas and cooperation.
In the film 5K Motion, New Havener Rodney Wilkerson, 18, a student at Gateway Community College, plays the lead male role, Trigger. Leandra Brooks of Bridgeport plays the female lead character, named Kim. Kim is a distressed teen who follows her boyfriend and finds herself becoming more and more involved in his life of crime and drug-dealing.
He persuades her to keep possession of his machine gun and a copious amount of crack.
When Kim’s mother finds out that Kim is concealing the gun, she tries to make her understand the implications of her actions. Kim continues to defend him, and replies, “He ain’t using me, he loves me.”
Eventually she’s arrested.
As in many real-life situations where girls and women support their men’s wrongdoings, her boyfriend never stands up for her. Alone to take the blame, Kim ultimately sentenced to 40 years in prison.
“It took a lot of time to make the movie. We had to audition, and then after we were cast, we had to learn our lines and practice being on camera. It was an amazing experience, and now I want to be an actor,” said Brooks.
Other adults involved in the criminal justice system, such as U.S. District Court Judge Janet Arterton, participated in the making of hte film.
WTNH’s Jocelyn Maminta, host of the event, spoke prior to the movie. “It saddens me as a mom and journalist that we are being constantly surrounded by gun violence,” she said. Police Chief Dean Esserman also offered brief remarks: “A child of New Haven is precious. A child of New Haven is a child of us all.”
A panel of female inmates spoke at the event about their real-life connection to the film.
After the movie, awards were given to all the actors, along with individualized superlatives. Director Charles Grady, a senior investigator with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, gave out awards. Schools superintendent Reggie Mayo offered a closing thought: “Education is everything, and we must use this is a way to make Connecticut a safer place. We must end handgun violence. It affects communities and families.”
Ariela Martin, a student at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, is an Independent contributing reporter.