Winner of the programmer’s choice award at the MiFo LGBT Film Festival (2017), Steven Esteb’s award-winning drama Hate Crime is now about to make its debut on home streaming services. Hate Crime focuses on a single night leading up to the scheduled execution of a young man who killed his secret lover at University. Here Esteb explores the family breakdown caused by the murder as the scheduled execution nears. Esteb centres his film on the raw emotions of blame, guilt and confusion while never shying away from discussions on the very nature of justice.
The murdered boy’s father (John Schneider) was both open and accepting of his son’s sexuality but longs for some form of closure. While at the same time, his wife (Laura Cayouette) seethes with internalised anger, her emotions in conflict with her husbands need to understand the actions of the boy who murdered their child.
Meanwhile, the parents of the boy who committed the murder are caught in a downward spiral of guilt and pain. Here the perpetrator’s father (Kevin Bernhardt) struggles to accept his repressed emotions as he shields himself from his role in his son’s inability to express feelings. At the same time, his wife (Amy Redford) is torn between anger and love for her emotionally repressed husband while constantly questioning her failings as a mother.
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As the night slowly counts down to the execution of a young man who murdered another in a blind fit of rage, both sets of parents must ultimately undertake their own ‘coming out’ journey as the past and present collide. Hate Crime excels in its nuanced exploration of toxic masculinity’s role in family life and upbringing. Here, both fathers reflect the polar opposite roles men can play in the lives of their sons. One opted to allow their son to explore and grow in freedom, while the other repressed freedom through the masculine norms they believed to be accurate.
Hate Crime never attempts to make sweeping political statements on the use of the death penalty in America. However, despite the lack of any political commentary, there is a pervading sense that the death of both boys achieves nothing while avoiding a deeper exploration of the crime.
At its heart, this is a film that asks us all to reflect on the socialisation of boys and the toxic behaviour that can lead to hate. However, Hate Crime offers struggles to fully unpick the complex social and emotional repression discussions it raises. Its score often overpowers the drama on-screen, while its script is occasionally clunky and loose, given the serious nature of the discussions. The result is a movie that sometimes finds the emotional power at its core before losing it again in soap opera melodrama.
Hate Crime is available to stream on Amazon, InDemand, DIRECTV, FlixFling, FANDANGO, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, AT&T, and Sling/Dish from 24th September 2019.
Director: Steven Esteb
Starring: Amy Redford, Kevin Bernhardt, John Schneider, Amy Redford, Laura Cayouette, Jordan Salloum