Sundance 2017 Review: Dayveon
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival kicked off with Amman Abbasi‘s latest, Dayveon. Dayveon is a small film, very small in fact. Shot with a 4.3 aspect ration, the festival darling, is about 13-year-old Dayveon (Devin Blackmon) who is initiated into a local gang of Bloods in his rural Arkansas town after his older brother is shot and killed. Dayveon hasn’t had the childhood like most 13-year-olds have. His atmosphere that he’s been surrounded by his whole life has affected him emotionally and mentally.
Clocking in at only 1 hour and 13 minutes, Dayveon manages to tell a brutal, honest and terrifying descent into the life of a gangster. Newcomer Devin Blackmon gives a fearless performance of a once innocent young man, who has no choice but to take on a gang related lifestyle. His performance never feels like “too much” or “not enough,” as some child actors tend to do, especially on their first rodeo.
Blackman, who also narrates the film, is the heart and soul of the Sundance opener. You are with Dayveon every step of the way. When he makes poor choices, you want him to be a better person because you as an audience will believe that this actor on screen is real. What I found wonderful about this little gem, was that it wasn’t all shootings, robberies, and drugs. You see these gang members having real conversations about real life things. Something as simple as them skipping rocks on the late and having small talk are the things that separate this film from other gang related movies.
This could be due to director Amman Abbasi developed the script with input from local gang members, as well as casting non-professional actors in the majority of the roles. The authenticity of every performance is proof that you don’t need big names for terrific performances.
The internal struggle our young protagonist goes through is one that all can relate to, especially teenage viewers. Which path is one to go on when faced with these extreme circumstances at such a young age? The brotherhood of being a part of gang versus being there for your family during their time of mourning?
The film does an excellent job at making the scenarios not so “black and white” or “good and bad.” Instead, the story shows it strictly from a 13-year-olds point of view, and how someone’s of that age would represent these situations in their mind. Despite the short runtime, Dayveon does drag at parts, with the pacing being uneven towards the 3rd act.
While Dayveon might not be the best film to hit Sundance in 2017, it’s certainly a worth the one. The messages and themes are all things we’ve seen on the silver screen before, but the rawness, grit, and documentary-like nature of the film, it certainly shouldn’t be missed.
Dayveon premieres on January 19th, 2017 at the Sundance Film Festival