Directed by Richy Jacobs Starring Richy Jacobs, Anthony Ray, Josh Margulies, Alan E Ramos and Meosha Bean Short Film Review by Catherine Pearson
It Was An Accident is an interesting glimpse into American police culture and the concepts of blame, guilt and morality.
When cops Sam (Anthony Ray) and Roy (Richy Jacobs) respond to a call in an office building, they find themselves faced with a young man aiming a gun in their direction. Sam acts immediately and according to his duty, shooting the perpetrator. The film follows the fall-out after the accidental killing of the young man and looks at the effects that such action can have on one’s mental health, personal and work relationships, and future.
It Was An Accident presents its two central characters, Sam and Roy, as loyal partners and honest police officers who understand the importance of their oath and the gravity of their actions. This is set up very early in the indie film with the portrayal of the two men handling and wrestling with the implications of what has happened; whilst Sam is shown with his head in his hands, Roy thanks him for acting in his defence before ‘calling in’ the incident as per protocol. It is crucial to the story that these two characters are established as ‘the good cops’ from the offset, allowing the audience to then judge the response from the board of superiors that follows and form an opinion surrounding the handling of such tragic events by the police.
Anthony Ray’s performance as Sam is very believable; he is suitably troubled and subtle in his grief and his expression often speaks volumes where the script need not. There is a clunky moment of dialogue in which Sam utters “I shot a kid, I can’t believe it” to himself; a line that could have easily been replaced with a close-up on his face to convey his deep trauma. Richy Jacobs, seen here in a far more collected and assertive mode than his character in Hard Requitals, is very strong in his role and balances his part well between key witness who has no qualms with arguing with his superiors and friend who must down-play the event to his colleague to keep him sane. Josh Margulies and Alan E Ramos, too, perform well in their roles as the superiors to whom Sam must answer and arguably present the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ style of policing in their interrogation of Sam.
The camera work is largely very effective with the short, frantic shots of Sam’s face following the incident enhancing the impression of his declining mental state. Whilst the camera work assists in this case, however, the film quality does suffer with some hand-held camera action scenes when compared to the sharpness of the static sequences between Sam and Roy.
It Was An Accident is not without its dose of melodrama and occasional uneven sound, however it does engage with some really interesting material. The fact that the victim of the shooting is a young African-American man is no coincidence and, likewise, the board members being white males allows for plenty of audience interpretation. It is interesting to see a take on this issue where the response from the police is evidently wholly correct and the killing wholly accidental. The nature of the police “accident” here is very different to that in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station and whilst the recent documentary 13th highlights the role of the police in branding black male youths as criminals, the police officers here have no such prejudice. In fact, officer Sam is in many ways a victim also; a victim of his duty and his own moral conscience.