The director of the upcoming film “American Trial: The Eric Garner Story” opens up about developing a film based on the murder of Eric Garner.
This will be #RoeeMessinger’s first time making a film, and instead of portraying the real-events of Garner’s case, Messinger will be portraying what would have happened if a grand jury had indicted Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who murdered Garner during the 2014 arrest. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the film, which is getting a world premiere Oct. 12 at the New York Film Festival, will be using real lawyers, experts, witnesses, and the victim’s widow. The 33-year-old plans to also highlight American police brutality from a foreign perspective – Messinger was born in Israel and raised in Mexico City. No one in the film is an actor except for Anthony Alteri, who plays Pantaleo.
Messinger said he was shocked by the impact and outcome of the Garner case that it motivated him to make the film. “Eric Garner was killed on the summer break between my first and second year of film school, and the non-indictment decision came just before the Christmas break of the second year. I don’t think I was naive about racial relations in the U.S., but it surprised me and disturbed me in a very profound way. One day I realized that I was living in the city where it happened, and it wouldn’t be all that difficult to get in touch with the people who would have participated in a trial, if it had gone to trial. That’s how the film was born,” said Messinger.
The director said he hopes the film will ignite his audience to question race as it relates to the justice system. “What I would really love is if I heard that people went out and continued to talk about it. There are a lot of underlying questions that are in the subtext of the film that are not about whether or not Pantaleo was guilty but much more broad because Eric Garner is one of many incidents. Why was there never a trial? Who decides when a cop is prosecuted or not? How much does race still play a factor in the justice system? If the audience comes out from this film asking themselves those questions, that is what I’m hoping for.”