Winner of the programmers 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 steaming services. Bringing us a nuanced and deeply emotional exploration of family life in the face of hate crime.
Focussing on a single night leading to the scheduled state execution of a young man who killed his secret lover at University. Hate Crime not only explores the family effects of the murder. But also the impending death of the perpetrator on the parents of both boys. Dovetailing the raw emotions of blame, and guilt with a nuanced discussion on the nature of justice. While the families of both boys struggle to find their voice in airing the things left unsaid. The struggle to consolidate the need for justice interfacing with the need to understand the crime. As parental influence, masculinity and socialisation in differing family structures are laid bare.
While the parents of the boy who lost his life at the hands of his lover desperately try to resolve the need for justice with the need for understanding. With the late boys father (John Schneider) both open and accepting of his sons sexuality. But also in need of closure, while his mother (Laura Cayouette) seethes with internal anger at the murder of her son. Her emotions conflicting with her husbands need to understand the perpetrator awaiting death.
Meanwhile the parents of the boy who committed the murder are caught in a spiralling relationship of guilt and pain. The need to explore their own failures matched with a need to reach resolution in the events unfolding. With the perpetrators father (Kevin Bernhardt) struggling to circumnavigate his repressed emotions. While also shielding himself from his own role in his son hiding his true self and sexuality. The boys mother (Amy Redford) equally torn between anger and love for her emotionally repressed husband and her own failings in the upbringing of their son.
As the night progresses towards the execution of a young man who committed an act of murder in a blind fit of rage. Both sets of parents must ultimately follow their own ‘coming out’ journey. While uncovering the issues that led to the murder of one boy and impending execution of another.
Hate Crime excels in its nuanced exploration of the role of toxic masculinity in family life and upbringing. With both fathers reflecting the differing roles of men in ensuring boys grow into men free role of masculine stereotypes. While equally exploring the role of women in bridging the gap between the ideals of the father and son on the journey to adulthood. With a story that confidently explores the risks of parents assigning character limited masculine stereotypes to their children. An act that ultimately leads to the suffocation of a child personal and social development. Leading children to hide large parts of their life from the very people who should love them unconditionally.
While performances play to the deep and uncomfortable emotions of a family unravelling as long buried truths are aired. Creating a rollercoaster of emotion that draws the audience into the darkest reaches of self reflection.
Interestingly Hate Crime never attempts to make sweeping political statements on the use of the death penalty in America. However, despite the lack of overt commentary. There is, equally a pervading atmosphere that the death of both boys achieves little in changing the social constructs that led to the crime. With the use of the death penalty ultimately an easy escape for communities in exploring the root causes of the crime.
This is a film that asks us all to reflect on the socialisation of boys, and the toxic masculinity that can lead to hate. From the importance of parental support in helping boys overcome the archaic stereotypes of masculinity still present in modern society. To the importance of ensuring that the freedom to embrace sexuality is routed in personal choice. And not held ransom by the unconscious bias of parental control.
Direction is solid, while cinematography beautifully reflects the emotional trauma on screen. Combining the light and innocence of childhood memory, with the claustrophobia and darkness of adult mental anguish. There is however, a weakness in the use of the films musical score. Where its dominance in scenes of emotion and reflection distills the performances on screen. Creating the aesthetic of TV movie rather than a cinematic journey.
However, despite these minor flaws Hate Crime offers a complex exploration of social and emotional repression. One that works alongside a nuanced discussion on masculinity, family and crime. With the devastating results of repressed emotion and secrets creating an emotional journey into the causes and symptoms of homophobic hate crime.
Hate Crime is available to steam 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