Coming to theatres this Friday, January 20:
THEY CALL US MONSTERS
Los Angeles Film Festival 2016
AFI Docs, Austin, Human Rights Watch, Hot Springs Doc, Antenna Doc, Heartland,
A consideration of juvenile offenders who are tried as adults.
Set within the Compound, a high-security sub-jail within California’s Sylmar Juvenile Prison, Lear’s film focuses on a few inmate participants in a screenwriting workshop program run by Gabriel Cowan. As the three teens collaborate on a script that Cowan will eventually produce, they reveal the disturbing, violent crimes they’ve committed. Meanwhile the California legislature struggles with passing a bill that would decrease tough sentencing for juvenile offenders, citing studies that have shown that the latter don’t fully consider or process the consequences of their actions, and should neither be held to the same standards as adults nor irredeemably condemned for criminal actions. At the same time, their crimes have victims, and these too are heard from here, underscoring the complexity of the issue. While Lear struggles to keep focus on the screenwriting workshop, a conceit which seems to have more importance in the film’s first half then largely fades away, hen excels in capturing his subjects’ personalities, moments which remind the audience of just how young, and, in some ways, still innocent, these troubled boys are.