Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


“Origin” is yet another masterful piece from Ava DuVernay (“13th”), focusing on systemic racism in a heartfelt and emotive character study.

Right from the start DuVernay puts the audience on edge with a detailed episode of the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin. The sequence has all the terror of a Brian De Palma film, all the more shocking and sad because it happened. The film does not hold back here and nor should it.

Faced with growing evidence that Martin’s murder was purely racially motivated, author Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjunue Ellis) begins to collect research that racism is an institutional system. Further, racism itself is a caste system built to be violent, permanent, normalized and insidiously ingrained within societies throughout the world from the United States to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The quest for the truth takes Wilkerson across the globe. Again, and again repeatedly, she finds her research validated to her horror and dismay.

Wilkerson is driven to do this while she grieves for her late husband (Jon Bernthal) unexpectedly stricken with a fatal heart attack.

The film does an excellent job in highlighting meaningful and pointed eras in history and making them visceral and anxiety inducing exposing them for what these eras are: clusters of metastasizing cancer cells upon our seemingly democratic society.

The last third of the film underscores India and their sad and depressive views on the Dalit community. For centuries, the Dalits were deemed “Untouchable” not allowed in the same spaces as other Indian communities, to take the same jobs or to drink the same water.

There is a direct line to be made from the Indian Dalits to racist ideology and the Jim Crow Laws. Shockingly as the film correctly underscores, Hitler and the Nazis looked to America to make their rules on race and demoralization.

If a society makes its laws speaking about one group being superior to the other, the group in question becomes dehumanized, depersonalized, and faceless. Once that occurs the voice and the progress of the human spirit is lost.

Every actor does a solid and genuine job from Audra McDonald and Myles Frost to Niecey Nash, Connie Nielsen, Nick Offerman, Vera Farmiga and Blair Underwood. This is a true ensemble effort, and it is not insincere or scenery-chewing at any point.

The most difficult concept in this film is its emphasis that oppression, control, and depersonalization are malignant elements in our chemistry. Our future responses or lack thereof, remain with us.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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