Winner of the programmers choice award at the MiFo LGBT Film Festival (2017). Steven Esteb’s award winning ‘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 explores the family effects of the murder, and impending death of the perpetrator on the parents of both boys. The raw emotions of blame, repression and guilt coming to fore as the night leads towards its dark conclusion. The families of both boys finding their voice in airing the things left unsaid. Both families struggling to consolidate the need for justice with the need to understand the crime. As parental influence, masculinity and socialisation in differing family structures is laid bare.
The parents of the boy who lost his life at the hands of his lover desperately trying to resolve the need for justice with the need for understanding. His father (John Schneider) open and accepting of his late sons sexuality; needing to understand the actions of the boy who took his son away. His mother (Laura Cayouette) seething with internal anger at the murder of her son. Her emotions conflicting with her husbands need to understand the boy awaiting death.
The parents of the boy who committed the murder; 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. His father (Kevin Bernhardt) struggling to circumnavigate his repressed emotions. Shielding himself from his own role in his son hiding his true self and sexuality; a contributing factor in the crime committed. His mother (Amy Redford) torn between anger and love for her emotionally repressed husband. Her own failures in ensuring her son could express his sexuality and difference eating away at her.
As the night progresses towards the execution of a young man who committed an act of murder in a blind fit of rage; his rage stemming from an argument over ‘coming out’ to family and friends. Both sets of parents must ultimately follow their own coming out journey. Uncovering the very issues that led to the murder of one boy and impending execution of another. The victims openness and transparency, interfacing with the perpetrators hidden life of toxic masculinity and shame, in the minds of both sets of parents.
Hate Crime excels in its nuanced exploration of masculinity in nuclear family dynamics. The role of fathers in enabling their sons to live unrestrained by social stereotypes. Combining with the role of mothers in bridging the gap between son’s and fathers on the journey to adulthood. The story confidently exploring the risks of parents assigning character, hopes and dreams to their children. Suffocating the child’s rights to develop their own characters, interests and loves. Actions that lead to children hiding large parts of their life from the very people who should love them unconditionally.
Performances play to the deep and uncomfortable emotions of families unravelling and facing long buried truths. Creating a rollercoaster of emotion that draws the audience into the darkest reaches of self reflection. The family unit placed under the microscope with both sets of parents desperately searching for new ways to relate and heal. The darkness of the events surrounding them and impending execution haunting each minute of a night ahead.
Hate Crime never attempts to make sweeping political statements on the use of the death penalty in America. However, there is a pervading sense that the death of both boys ultimately achieves little in changing the social constructs that led to the crime. The use of the death penalty an all too easy escape for society in exploring the root causes of such actions.
This is a film that asks us all to reflect on the socialisation and toxic masculinity that leads to hate crimes. 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. Not held ransom by parental and social unconscious bias and stigma. The importance and need for young people to develop and embrace their individuality without the anxiety and fear of being isolated or unloved.
Direction is solid, while cinematography beautifully reflects the emotional trauma on screen. Combining the light and wide open vista’s of happy childhood memories, with the claustrophobia and darkness of mental anguish. There is however a weakness in the use of the films musical score; often playing over scenes where less may have been more in further enhancing the atmosphere.
Hate Crime offers a complex exploration of social and emotional repression, alongside the family constructs of masculinity. Parental support and emotional openness being key to enabling freedom of expression in children. The devastating results of repressed emotion and secrets laid bare, alongside the lives of two young men who had a whole world of experience sill ahead of them.
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