American Trial: The Eric Garner Story is one of those films a person will watch and be unable to categorize. A hybrid of fiction and documentary, the unscripted courtroom drama is something of a throwback. Using no actors (except one notable exception) and actual transcripts, the film reimagines a trial that never was. The death of Eric Garner and the events surrounding it caused the nation to look at what is appropriate force for the police to use. Garner was selling single cigarettes illegally. When the police attempted to arrest him, a chokehold was used that led to Garner’s death. The officer who applied the hold was never indicted.
American Trial asks what would have happened if Officer Daniel Pantaleo did go to trial. Neither a documentary nor a dramatization, the drama is an actual court case. Real attorneys and people involved with the event participated.The audience is basically watching an interactive play. The trial is held and there is little of the flash and intrigue that is seen in the court cases played out on prime time television. Instead, American Trial presents a case with arguments, evidence, and experts. There is no shocking twist and no surprise witnesses.
On the surface, it may sound a little dry. By the strictest definition of the term, it may be. But American Trial is not trying to entertain its audience. Instead, it is trying to inform and educate those watching. This is very important because in this case, the viewers are not passively watching. They are literally the jury. After all the evidence has been presented, each audience member will cast their verdict.
American Trial begins showing in virtual theaters on May 18. A Q&A livestream will be held with director Roee Messinger and Eric Garner’s wife, Esaw Snipes Garner, on May 21. It is at this point the verdict will be announced. In order to participate in the trial, please visit the American Trial website for more information on theaters, tickets and the Q&A: www.passionriver.com/AmericanTrial