It's a Hard Truth Ain't It (2018) Movie Script

When you are working on a case
that you think is a
wrongful conviction,
you're only on one side.
And that side
is getting to the truth.
18-year-old Hae Min Lee
disappeared on January 13.
Police found
her half-buried body.
She had been strangled.
The suspect is Adnan Masud Syed.
I've been saying to Adnan,
"We should go to media.
We should go to journalists.
'Cause they can do things
we can't do."
Adnan Syed's story
has captivated millions
since the launch of
the podcast Serial.
It's our
responsibility as investigators
to consider other suspects.
Now, Adnan Syed
heads back to court
as questions about his case
continue to surface.
This is a piece of evidence
that nobody even realized
existed for all these years.
I might've been the last person
to see him.
I'm telling you,
that's what happened.
I wish I never would've talked
to y'all in the first place.
This is perhaps
the critical piece to this case.
Now, I know there are
things that don't look good for me.
If we do a movie about us,
we all come from somewhere.
What would we want
to open from our past...
to open who we are,
if they were introducing
us as a character?
For me, a camera
would be looking
at an eight-
or nine-year-old boy.
And the camera moves
around real slowly
to see what the child
is looking at.
And the child is looking at
Pendleton Correctional Facility.
You see the bubble on
the top here? Yeah, yeah.
Okay, so make sure the
bubble's in the middle... Yeah. the circle,
and then you screw it in.
Nope. It's
not in the middle yet.
It don't wanna go in the middle.
Bubble's acting crazy.
You can tell him to look at the
camera. No, no, I want him to be real.
Okay, good.
Just to be natural and normal.
But we're seeing two other guys,
but we're not seeing everybody.
Right, so we can be super wide.
Yeah. I see.
You just gotta choose.
And there's no wrong answer.
It's whatever you want.
Your back is to... It's
probably okay if it's my back, right?
'Cause you guys are
all sharing your ideas.
But we just want to include
you in everything that we do.
Okay, tell me where you
want... Where do you want me to go?
In between
Thacker and Sir Charles.
All right.
This is something
I never thought
we would ever have behind
bars in the first place.
And I got to thinking,
if we do a movie about us,
in prison or about a day in
the life of prison or whatever,
you might wanna show
this footage here.
And it might say something
like, "In the beginning..."
Okay, so what do you want it to
be like, the beginning of the film?
And I was thinking though,
we need, like, an aerial shot.
But I see 11, 12 minds here.
What makes our story interesting?
What captures you?
What catches your
attention to be, like,
"Man, we gonna watch that!"
That's what we need to
put out there first.
So, let's start
spitting some ideas.
How do you
introduce each character?
Sound speed.
"A" slates. Mark.
We're rolling
on A cam. Mark.
Take one.
"A" mark.
Put the slate in front
of his face and make a soft clap.
Say mark and then clap.
We can just go here
'cause that's the camera.
Sound check,
camera B. Mark.
We're all stepping out.
Nah, I back out.
I'm too nervous. Nah.
So, Franko, tell me
a little about yourself.
Well, oh, what do
you wanna know?
I been locked up now 16 years...
and about a month,
16 years and a month.
You've had a lot of time
to think, obviously.
Tell me a little bit
about your childhood.
What was your home life like?
Lot of love.
A lot of people
think it's because
kids have bad childhoods,
that's why they
end up in prison.
But I had a loving family.
I was my mother's first,
so, to this day,
I'm still her baby.
We wasn't no rich family
or nothing like that,
but she wanted to make sure
me and my sister had enough.
I had so many toys.
I had this little three-wheel
spin around thing
you roll down the street.
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee.
It was a wild place.
It was pimps and prostitutes
and drug dealers.
It wasn't something that
you think about as a kid.
You just being a kid.
You spend a lot of
time thinking about the past
and thinking about those things?
Yeah, I think about
it all the time.
I think about it all the time.
Well, how's your relationship
with your mother?
I was a mama's boy.
I was the only son,
you know what I'm saying?
And I was the youngest.
But my mother worked
at General Motors.
My stepfather was a...
Worked construction.
Middle class,
you know what I'm saying?
"white" neighborhood.
She had her high school diploma
in the house where
we could see it.
Did the marching
with Martin Luther King.
Fought for jobs.
She would say,
"He fought for the things that we needed,"
and woo-woo, you know what I'm saying?
And I used to write raps,
in my bedroom, man, and I used
to leave, when I come back,
my mother would be...
Done took a red ink pen
and crossed out the words
and wrote the correct spelling.
She'd be like, "Boy, y'all
ain't even know how to cuss."
But, uh,
yeah, you know, she, uh...
Yeah, she was my rock.
You know what I'm saying?
That's the only person in the world that
I call my OG. You know what I'm saying?
I don't got no guys, you know,
just from the neighborhood
that I call OG or nothing like that.
You know what I'm saying?
The way I grew up,
my mother took us over
to all our family's house.
You know what I'm saying?
Even though there's 13 of them,
we knew all our
uncles and aunties.
My cousins and them
was a little bit...
faster than me, you feel me?
My cousins had been
going to juvenile.
Even though my mother
was a little liberal,
little free,
you know what I'm saying,
their mother was a little
bit more freer, you feel me?
Let me ask you,
are you a mother's...
Were you a mother's boy?
No. No, but,
like you, I always felt
protective of my mom.
I connected with my mom in a way that
my siblings didn't, you know?
We lived in a raggedy trailer,
by a creek, on a mountainside.
My mom was a little lady,
straight-up hillbilly.
She had a prescription
drug problem.
I understood her pain
and where she was coming from,
even as a young person,
I remember that.
When she was a child,
her dad died
saving her from drowning,
and I think that's
where it started.
Has she ever described
to you the day of the...
passing of her dad?
Her dad was a preacher.
He come home on a Friday,
and told my grandma that
the Lord revealed to him that
he was gonna die this weekend.
He asked the kids
what they wanna do.
And he took them to some river.
And then my
mom got caught in a current.
He jumped in to save her.
He never did come up.
So, her brothers and sisters
would tell her that,
"We wished you would've
died and not Dad.
It's your fault
that Dad's dead."
It's one of them things
that is unraveled,
and there's no fixing it.
There's no turning
back the clock.
Can everybody see?
So, what do you guys think
the filmmakers are
trying to show?
It makes you think
about what happened to him.
Why is he in the wheelchair?
The difficulty of being in a wheelchair.
That's what I would do.
Yeah, difficulty of being disabled.
Is he ex-military?
What life would be like... That's
what I thought when I first saw him.
You said it's
called a cold opening?
A cold open. Yeah.
In clubs, I been out all over the
place, people will come up to me,
and they'll shake
my hand and say,
"Oh, it's good to see you out."
And I look at them like,
"Good to see me out?" Where am I
supposed to be? In a closet hanging out?
Zupan, car accident.
Did you call that lower third?
It's the lower third
of the screen,
is where they used to always go.
I just wanna look at a couple
very different
examples of movies,
so I think let's watch
the beginning of Grizzly Man.
I'm out in the prime
cut of the big green.
Behind me is Ed...
Yes, exactly.
They will decapitate me.
They will chop me
into bits and pieces.
I'm dead.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
I don't think we should say
what they locked
up for at first.
Yeah. Let's not
show it right off the bat.
Mr. Dennis,
if you could sum up
your childhood
in one word, what would it be?
Dramatic or pathetic.
Something, you know, um...
Why'd you choose dramatic?
Well, because it
was always full of...
I was always doing stupid
stuff, stealing and stuff,
um, and I was always...
At home, it was
always chaotic and drama.
Just drama, drama, drama,
drama, all the time.
It all revolved around my dad.
He came out likable,
uh, and some people do,
and, you know,
they're monsters
behind closed doors.
I was at the Travelodge,
downtown Indianapolis.
We lived in an apartment
behind the office.
My dad came in,
laid down on the couch.
He said he was gonna take a nap.
He set the TV,
said don't touch it.
It was on a western.
Well, after 15, 20,
30 minutes, whatever it was,
there was a lot of action,
a lot of drama.
He jumps up off the couch,
thinking we done did
something to the TV...
...and just snatches
me by the head of my hair,
and yanks me to the ground
and stomps on me for no reason.
Your father not
believing in you,
backhanding you,
not standing up for you,
stomping you.
How did that make you feel?
Be honest with you, I really...
I really wanted something
bad to happen to him.
They ended up taking my brother
to the Children's Guardian home,
because my father
stripped him butt naked
and tied him up, hands and feet,
to the hot and cold water
pipes in the shower,
and tied the shower door shut,
and left him there
for three days.
You ran away a few times,
end up in the streets,
end up in juvenile, end up in
the courtroom. Right.
And they knew the
details of how you got there,
that you ran away,
so on and so forth.
And, you know, and I begged
them for a foster home then.
And you did...
I did, I begged them.
Did you feel more comfortable
being locked up
than being at home?
Oh yeah. The streets
were better than home,
and Juvie was better
than the streets.
Streets was presented
to me at a young age
before I even knew myself.
Like, you 12 years old,
13, 14 years old.
You really don't know
nothing about life.
It's like, you know,
I ain't got no school.
Ain't got nothing to do. Well,
I'm out here on these streets.
You wasn't going to school?
Yeah, I got kicked
out of school.
How old were you?
Was 12.
And you got kicked out?
Expelled? What happened?
it was an incident
on the school bus.
Dude put his hands on my sister.
He hit her in the jaw so hard
that her glasses
she had on broke in half.
First, I stabbed him
with some colored pencils.
Those didn't work out too well
'cause he looked
at me and was like,
gave me the death stare,
and turned his
attention towards me.
Get him, Franko!
Get him!
Some of her
girlfriends tried to jump in,
and it turned into a big brouha.
A brawl. A
bar brawl on the school bus.
I had a knife in my pocket.
I always knew the facts,
so I had weapons.
I know I got him
in the stomach area,
think, like, the shoulder.
When your mom found out,
what was her reaction when
they learned that you had
actually stabbed this guy?
When she found out about it,
she was highly disappointed.
She felt
like it all could've been avoided
if the bus driver would've
let us off the bus
instead of taking us
back to the school, so.
So, although your mom was disappointed
that you was out of school,
she was happy that you
stood up for your sister.
Yeah. Well, yeah, 'cause the motto was,
like, if one fights, you all fight.
You know? Family motto.
Oh yeah? Your mom
and dad were married?
I mean, you had a good nuclear family?
Um, I don't classify it as good
because they were
always fighting.
When my dad was high
or drunk, he was, like,
the coolest parent in the world,
but once he was fiending
for that stuff, it was,
you know, ticking
time bomb. So you,
you step too loud in
the house, you know,
violence will occur, so...
Are you still in contact
with your parents?
My dad passed away,
like, six years ago,
but to be honest,
it didn't affect me
not one bit at all.
I was always worried
that he would kill my mom.
I remember it was...
around the time this individual
got out of prison on furlough,
he killed his wife
with a shotgun.
We were living in
the shelter center
for battered women
and children, and,
at the time, my mama's face was,
like, the size of a real
pumpkin, both eyes swollen shut.
And she telling her friend
and everybody's like,
that's gonna be me one day.
And like, for you to hear your
mom say that, like, that's...
How old were you then?
I was, like, six.
yeah, I was, like,
six years old. Yeah.
The most memories
I have was probably
around third grade,
of elementary school.
A lot of fighting, you know,
that just comes natural,
but I asked where my dad was.
She told me that she
was six months pregnant
when he first
found out about it,
and he kicked her
out of a moving car.
That the last time she seen him.
She told me that day, he was
doing, like, 50 miles an hour,
and that she ended up
going to the hospital,
and she broke a couple of bones.
And I remember her saying,
"Luckily, you
wasn't hurt."
That made me feel like,
well, she wanted me.
You know what I mean?
I left the house after
he stomped me that time.
I was like 12,
13 years old then.
I knew a friend whose dad had
brought out a sawed-off
shotgun, and, um,
old Western-style
.45, .44,
whatever it was.
I'm not sure what it was.
But I went there to
try and steal them,
and come back and kill him.
I thought about suicide, too.
But let me
just ask you this question.
I was getting whooped
when I was a kid,
but I never developed
the urge to kill my mother.
Was your thought process
if I kill him,
my mother won't be abused...
No, I planned on
killing her, too.
I blamed her just as much.
You know, you back
a dog into the corner,
and you're beating
him and stuff, I mean,
he's gonna try to come up
out of that corner, and,
for me, running away
wasn't getting it.
I kept running away
and I just kept ending up
right back in the same place.
Remember the inciting
incident, you know?
That always gets everything going, and
the self-disclosure. Right.
Maybe we are,
and our stories in here,
each one of us altogether,
that is the inciting incident.
Inciting incident.
Where you decided
to change who you are.
Is the plot,
kind of like, even though...
'cause we was talking
about at the beginning how
when you start out
young, and you don't get
the proper education,
you know what I'm saying.
You know, the proper
skills or, you know,
how to think properly,
you know what I'm saying?
How to discern between right
and wrong and what not.
But I don't want us to get into
making this feel like
a sympathy type of thing.
So I don't want the kids
that seeing that,
oh, this guy made a mistake.
He was abused, he was on drugs,
his father wasn't there. Let's
also tell the other story of,
I chose to kill you.
That's a great thought.
No one else
put you here but you.
The thing that I like is that,
we start with...
with Dennis's scene.
A boy looking at prison,
bu then you got other
kids in animation
coming and joining him.
And maybe all of the kids
coming together,
and they're all looking at it, and
then you see what they're looking at.
I envision
some signs where it says,
"Turn Left Here,"
or, "Keep Going Straight."
Like, you still
have a second chance
where you can actually...
Take that road, get you
back onto the right road.
I was thinking about this,
like, we recognize that,
you know what I'm saying,
at the end of the day,
you know, society see us as,
you know...
But I was thinking you could
come in with your browns off.
And as you talk and you
start to put your browns on,
they could begin to see, like,
no, I'm actually in prison.
I like that you begin dressed.
At the end, you can, like,
show the crime
that got you here.
Like, well let me tell you
how I got in this mess.
Yeah. If you
show each one of us,
whether it's in
animated or what not,
and each one of us is saying
my story is not special...
We need to get past
the visual of something.
We need to get to the meat
and potatoes of it...
None of us in here
wanted to come to prison.
Now, some of us may
have wanted to commit
the acts that we committed,
but why did we wanna
commit those acts?
We moved to Indiana
so I can go to school
'cause I got kicked
out of school.
I didn't even really
go to school that much.
How did your parents react when
you got kicked out of school,
or when you quit
going to school?
Well, my dad, he tried to do
something about it, but it's, like,
man, you out here getting high
and you can't tell me nothing.
You can sit down.
I was an honor roll
student as a child.
And I wasn't the first person
they seen at a young age
doing what I was doing,
and unfortunately,
I wasn't the last.
I was smart in school.
School was actually boring.
My mama, she used
to always get on me.
"Why you never got no homework?"
I'm like, "'Cause it's done."
When you moved to Fort Wayne,
what was the neighborhood like?
People getting beat up, shot.
I seen a guy get burnt up.
So, what were people
getting... You said burnt up?
They took his money,
took his drugs,
and... set him on fire.
When you pulled up and that
situation was unfolding,
what was you feeling?
Well, you shouldn't
have been over here.
Were there any people
in your neighborhood
that completed high
school or held good jobs
or good, positive role
models in your neighborhood?
Nah, there wasn't
no role model types.
There... I don't remember no dudes
my age graduating high school.
I really started learning
about the Vice Lords
probably when I was about 10.
We would go to Amber Woods,
walk all the way
down on Marehoefer,
you know... socialize
with the brothers and sisters
that was Vice Lords.
They taught me those
five principles,
love, truth, peace,
freedom, and justice,
you know what I'm saying.
Taught me the signs and symbols.
When I was actually in sixth
grade, you know what I'm saying,
you know, I thought I was
doing my little schoolwork.
That's what I would do, I would pull
out the literature and learn it.
What the cross mean,
you know what I'm saying?
What the top hat mean, you know.
My sister would tell my mother.
You know what
I'm saying... Like,
"Mama, do you know
that he's in a gang?"
And I would always say,
"Mama, I ain't in no gang."
You know what I'm saying?
I never committed
a violent crime.
All the stuff I ever done was
petty thefts and burglaries,
things like that.
I stole a box of candy...
from a store once,
when we were selling
candy for the school.
I stole a...
a roach clip once, from a house,
that was a shape of a naked woman.
So, you squeeze on the elbows
and the legs would open,
and put the joint in.
Stupid shit, man, just stupid.
Why do you think
that you were stealing?
I had no reason to do it.
On the streets, you
have a lot of lost people.
It's like The Walking Dead.
A zombie, you're eating
on this person. For what?
Only way I think is
'cause you hungry,
so you just done that
because you was hungry.
But it wasn't a good idea.
Wasn't a good plan.
I was an alcoholic
by the time I was 14.
Then I got caught up
in selling drugs myself.
Was that common in
your neighborhood?
Yeah. Everybody out
there selling dope.
They helping they parents out
because a lot of our parents
were using the drugs
we were selling.
Look at it, I don't think
nobody wasn't selling drugs.
The situation was lucrative
because we was in
a middle class community.
When I spent $80,
and made over 300,
it made me feel kinda good that
I'm able to give
my mother something,
you know what I'm saying?
You were 12 years old?
Eleven, 12 years old,
I started selling dope.
Start having sex,
11 years old,
got a girl pregnant.
When I was 16,
me and my girlfriend
had our first kid.
I didn't make enough
money to support a family.
I started selling cocaine
just to... just to make
the ends meet.
But then, somebody introduced
me to crack cocaine.
That first hit...
...right there, it just
introduced me to something
I knew was stronger than me.
Did you ever smoke crack?
Never. I never smoked crack,
never snorted powder,
never did heroin.
Why did you stay away
from harder drugs?
'Cause I saw what it did.
I saw what it did to people,
and I didn't wanna
end up like that.
So, help me understand,
because you didn't
do the hard drugs
because you seen what
it was doing to people.
But yet, you was selling them
to the people that was
doing those things.
So, I mean, did you
ever think about that?
In my mind,
it was...
they gonna get it somewhere.
They don't get it from me,
they gonna get it from him,
and I'm gonna be walking
around here broke,
and he gonna be walking
around with all the money.
Can you describe to me, like,
the moment that you realized
you were an addict,
or a potential addict?
When my drug use shifted
from just being a recreational
weekend thing,
to a through the week thing.
Sorry. They're having
to bring somebody in here.
So, we have to move
because it's gonna be too loud.
Soon as this... Uh-huh.
Have you guys been in these?
Dry cell? Oh yeah.
When we were there,
everything used to be a good
idea at one time or another.
What, so it's when
they take you...
Fighting or if they're
under investigation...
I remember I got
into it in the chow hall.
Before they decide
to put you upstairs in...
It was at breakfast time.
Got maced.
Stuck me in there for, like,
five hours...
It was freezing and everything.
They stuck me in this dry cell
for eight hours one time, I'm
all handcuffed behind my back,
with nothing but boxers on,
in the wintertime.
I was froze for three days.
Freezing to death. I mean, all right.
I'm wondering
what they got Dodd for.
Man, you know what's...
You know what it's about.
Stop playing crazy.
It's only one of few things.
Ninety-one minutes, that mean
that's the life left in the battery?
Franklin? F22 is...?
F 2.2. That's the f-stop.
Okay. It's what?
The F-stop, the iris.
How big...
How big, oh, okay.
ISO 320?
Is that... What's that?
That's more of,
you know, opening up the, um...
to get more light in or
take the light out.
And the, what's that,
180 degrees? Square?
That's the shutter. The shutter angle.
The shutt... oh, okay.
Just inquiring mind, you know.
Did Daniel pass?
If you don't mind asking,
how much is that equipment...
Just that unit right there?
Probably, 25.
Twenty-five racks?
Thought this thing was cheap?
I didn't think it was that expensive.
Well, that's new.
Twenty-five grand?
Yeah, it's professional
All right,
Brandon, come join us.
You did good directing
You still playing with it?
I'm having fun.
I'm playing.
We got Quentin
Tarantino over here.
I'm a good cameraman.
So, I was thinking
what could be cool to do
is split you into pairs.
You're gonna
interview each other,
and tell each other's stories.
From his stepdad and his father,
as much as he didn't
wanna be like them,
in so many ways,
he started becoming them.
his father, you know,
led a life of crime as well.
I was a D and F student.
He was an A student...
A and B student, a good student.
Um, his life,
if I would've had...
more of his life, I really
felt that my life would've
went in a whole
different direction.
So, that's what I got
out of his interview.
That's great. Yeah.
That's good.
So, I wanna, you know,
take it back though to your
gangbanging ways, right?
I wasn't no gangbanger. I told you, bro.
Okay, my... I'm sorry.
Excuse me, my fault.
You said what?
I wasn't no gangbanger.
I mean, you was in a gang.
I was never in a gang.
It was an organization.
Okay. Yeah...
Some clubs... Yeah, I'm sorry.
You know, gangs...
Excuse me, I was mistaken.
When you hear gang, it's got a negative
connotation to it, and you know...
Okay, well let me take
it back to your organization...
In the organization's constitution,
it says that, you know,
we not about
criminal enterprise,
you know what I'm saying?
Our motives was pure.
What you mean by that?
Our motives was pure.
We didn't have
no criminal intent.
Give me an example
of a pure motive.
Did y'all, like, throw
barbecues for the...
Oh, absolutely. You gotta understand...
Backpacks for the kids?
For us, we was
into community, man.
We had basketball tournaments.
You feel me?
Oh, y'all sponsoring tournaments?
Yeah, we did all that,
man, know what I mean?
Well, okay. Well, like,
how was y'all funding
this? Y'all was...
Where was y'all getting...
Fundraisers? Okay.
You know what I'm saying?
Everybody put in a dollar.
Everybody put in two dollars.
You know what I'm saying? Yeah.
You had a different experience.
Yeah, my experience was
totally different, right?
You know, we selling dope.
Shooting dice, you know.
We gambling, you know,
shit going on
that ain't supposed
to be going on, so...
It was told, like, what we
doing you can go to jail for,
or somebody will kill
you for what you got.
I think it was what
we stood on, you know?
Love, truth, peace,
freedom, and justice.
And one is seeing those
morals and standards
in our character
and in our actions,
you know what I'm saying?
I mean, you know,
I got into all the things
that y'all probably got into,
you know what I'm saying?
But that ain't
where I got it from.
You know, I got caught
up with the street life.
You know, money, cars, clothes.
When they find out you was
doing things outside of
fundraising skills and how to...
give back to the community,
what'd they say?
Well, see, the thing was,
by this time,
I wasn't really under nobody.
The buck stopped
with me at this point.
OGs, they'll come through.
They were like,
"Hey, here you go,
an ounce of dope.
Bring me back 600."
I didn't know
at the time, but...
it's a test.
You know what I'm saying?
To see if you gonna hustle.
To see if you gonna jack it off.
And I was accepted.
They saw the hustle in me.
They saw the rider in me.
I was groomed by true OGs.
I had just stole this car,
and I see the police.
When you in a stolen car
and the police get behind,
your heart start beating.
So, I turned a corner,
he turned right with me.
I turned another corner,
he turned right with me.
I just jumped out,
and let the car ride down
the street by itself.
I just happened to look
back and I seen the police
face-plant in the snow,
and I get away.
It's almost like,
remember when we were kids
and we used to play
cops and robbers?
Yeah. It felt like
it was my job...
to commit crimes,
and their job to catch me.
You can't have
all the breaks...
Some people wanna
go jump out of helicopters,
or go swimming with sharks.
When I got a taste
of the street life,
that was my drug of choice.
But, see,
some of them childhood dreams
was brung to you by a...
influential adult who didn't
know no better theyself.
Like... I was buying dope from
a dude, like, 12 years older.
He'd call me like, "I got
somebody for you to rob.
I just sold him some dope
right now. Go get that."
Like, okay, if I'm getting
this advice from somebody
who I look up to, what is...
That's gonna lead me to do?
I want people to see
this and be like, damn,
they needed some help at
one point in time, all right?
And they didn't get it,
and look what happened to them.
That's not true for everybody.
I didn't say for everybody.
If we don't know what
we want this film to do,
then we can't have a plot.
Everybody here does
have a different story.
We all come from
different walks.
I come from
a horrible situation.
We should be an informative film
that society can
look at us and say,
maybe we are fucking up.
Not just did they fuck up,
but maybe we're fucking up. But see, you
can't blame your problems on society.
That's what some people
will say you have...
Do you think,
or do you feel that
your childhood situation
had a lot to do with
you ending up in prison?
Yes and no.
I always felt like
I'd probably end up in prison.
But I felt like it would be
for short periods of time,
because that's what I had known.
I didn't get a foster
family until I was 16,
and I think if I would've
been eight or 10 years old,
and moved into that home,
or to a home, it may have been
a totally different situation.
Could you tell me
how it came about for you
being with your foster parents?
Yeah, I was in Juvie,
and, um, my foster dad
was the superintendent of Juvie.
One day, he brought
his wife and kids in.
I met them.
He told me,
"When you get out, if you want
to, you can come stay with us."
I said, okay,
yeah. You bet.
It was a beautiful home.
There was no nicotine on the
walls and furniture and stuff.
My house, I remember
wiping the window,
and nicotine being
all over my fingers.
We're sitting around
on the front porch,
and the two kids kissed their
mom and dad on the mouth.
I never seen that kind
of affection before.
We just always had a good
relationship, even though,
like I said, I was
always dysfunctional.
Running away and
doing stupid stuff.
You know it was
a good situation,
but you were still acting the same
when you were at home. Right, right.
At 18, the superintendent
of the juvenile center
took him in.
He was found on his wrongdoings
under benevolent custodianship,
where he stole from
him and whatnot.
While they never abandoned him,
no matter his crimes in
the house, or out of it,
to where they're
still in his life today,
and come see him
on regular visits.
I can see his endearment and
love for them at this point
in the interview,
his emotional attachment
was written all over his face.
I thank him for the interview
and his candid
reflection on his life.
That's great.
Boy, that was a lot.
That was a lot.
Is it strange to
hear it told back to you?
Oh yeah. Yeah,
I mean, because...
I mean, it's different.
It's real, you know?
Since I was...
10 years old...
I hadn't even
been on the streets two years.
So, the experiences
you guys have,
ball games, concerts, things,
I don't have that.
It's all right.
It's all good.
Yeah, and putting it
all into a story, does it make...
It just kind of
ties things together
in a different way, maybe?
It just seems like...
To be real, my whole
life has been pathetic.
I mean, when you look at it.
It's just been...
from childhood,
my adolescence, and Juvie, and
boys' school and everything,
and then, I just...
I just could never
stop screwing up.
Once I, you know, the life I had
as a child, it just led
me to be dysfunctional.
And even when I had
a good foster home...
And they're with me today,
I just screwed it up.
Is that how it
sounded to everybody else?
I mean, were you thinking...
pathetic when you
heard the story?
No, no.
I didn't.
I thought it was.
I don't think that's
how other people heard it.
You know what I'm saying?
I realized that I needed
help, and I started trying to go
to church and trying to...
reach back to what
I thought might help
shake this drug habit.
I started weaning
myself a little bit,
enough to get a job, hold a job.
I saved up some money
and got another place.
So, we moved out, but then...
I started doing drugs again.
This one night in particular,
I don't remember much,
I don't remember much
at that time, but...
we got an ounce of cocaine,
and we're just gonna sit
there and smoke it, and...
After about a couple hours,
I get up to go use the bathroom.
And as I'm walking
upstairs, the room
just started getting real dark.
My lungs felt like
they were froze.
As I got to the top of
the steps, I'm only seeing
through like a small pipe.
And I thought I was gonna die.
I couldn't speak,
but in my mind, I was
making a deal with God.
And I was like,
"God, don't let me die.
If you save me, I'll stop."
And as soon as that thought
went through my mind,
my vision came back.
My breathing was normal.
I went back downstairs,
and started smoking again.
And three days later
is when I caught my case.
Were you high when
you caught this case?
I knew that me selling dope,
I could be robbed.
Me selling dope,
I could be killed.
Me selling dope,
I could be pistol-whipped.
I could be jumped.
You know, you know
this getting into it.
And if you don't know it,
you will find out soon,
real quick.
You know, I hated it,
that some of my guys died,
but I knew the game.
When you think about
your whole life story,
if you can give it a title,
what would it be and why?
The title would probably be,
"What if?"
What if I wouldn't have
grew up in Memphis?
Would that have led me to here?
If I wouldn't have
started selling dope,
would I stay in the street life,
or would I not?
Would I still be out on the
streets, or would I be dead?
Do you think there's, like,
anywhere in life
while you still living
the street life that
your mentality could've got
put back on the right track?
I think there was plenty
of opportunities. Yeah.
Some I seen,
and I didn't take.
Some I seen in hindsight.
Before I went out
the door one day,
my mother said, "Come and sit here.
Sit at the kitchen table."
And she said,
"Lemme show you something."
She had the paperwork,
and she said, "Look,
this is your own business."
You know what I'm saying?
"All you gonna have to
do is sign right here,
"and I'ma call,
get all the contracts,
"do all the negotiations,
make all the bids,
woo woo." You feel me?
So, this is how,
with my mother's help,
I started a cleaning service.
And I was working for a while.
After we did all
the invoicing and everything,
you know what I'm saying,
we got the money back.
You know, had to pay rent.
Had to pay for the chemicals.
Had to pay on the van.
You know what I'm saying? I was like...
I'm used to having four or
5,000 dollars in my pocket,
and I could do whatever I want
with it, you feel me?
I ain't gotta be doing
all the scrubbing
no tubs and no floors and walls
and all this vacuuming.
And like,
one day, she said,
"I see it in you.
You fixin' to quit."
I knew the streets
wasn't healthy,
and my intentions wasn't
to stay in the street,
you know what I'm saying?
You know, truly,
I should've just
worked hard
and stayed on the job.
I just couldn't see
far enough ahead,
you know what I'm saying, and
I didn't have enough patience.
You could be so busy
looking at what you see,
that you don't see
what you looking at.
I was called for some
friends to buy some drugs from me,
but that wasn't they plan.
They plan was to rob me.
He drew his weapon,
and, me being the idiot,
I lunged for the gun.
Then somebody else...
...popped a gun
and shoot me in the back.
When you're young, you think
you're invincible anyway.
You feel me? I'm like, man,
I don't see what's gonna happen.
Once they start giving out so
much time for selling dope,
we said, all right.
We'd rather rob the dough boy
and take the chance
of getting six to 20,
or catching a pistol case
on the way to a robbery.
We was actually
cutting your alarm off,
climbing in your window,
wake you up.
"Where that safe at?
Come on with
that money."
I used to pray before
we went on robberies.
I used to pray that
nobody gets hurt.
I was in the hospital
for a few days.
The nurse come in.
She was like,
"Boy, you is
extremely lucky."
She was looking at the MRI.
"Everybody don't make it
through this type of shit,
so there's something here for
you, and you have to find it."
But at the time, I'm like,
"Okay, whatever, lady."
All I was thinking about, like,
this, you know, son of a bitch,
I'm gonna kill him, you know,
and everybody else in the house.
Did you get revenge on the guy?
Yeah, I... well, yeah.
That's why I'm locked up now,
'cause I ended up killing him.
How much time did
the judge give you?
Forty-five years.
What would you do?
What would you do if somebody
put a gun to your head?
I'm here because somebody
put a gun to me and my son.
But that's like you
not taking responsibility
for your actions though.
We don't never
wanna portray that.
To society, you're gonna say,
I have dealt with
the same stuff,
and I've overcame it. I have not
did this, I have not did that.
My brother did the same thing. He did
six years, got out and never came back.
So, some guys come
back all the time.
The plot is why?
Why? Why did you
just wanna kill somebody?
Why did you get in
the situation to where
you felt like you needed
to kill your folks?
Then we just focus it on
us and not on the bigger thing.
I think whole thing
boils down to the ability
to make you think about self,
to make you relate.
But then I think the uniqueness
of this project is that all of
us come from different places,
but our stories are so similar,
and the...
the uniting threads
of all of our stories is
one or two things,
you know what I mean?
I think that's essential,
to not just look at
my family abused me,
or I had a drug problem,
but looking deeper. Why?
And then as you start
sorting out those thoughts,
then you start coming
to some bedrock.
Some real
fundamental... footing.
Am I discovering myself?
And the most profound
thing that I heard
during this project was
when Franko said that
he went into the street life
before he even come
to know his self.
And I think that right
there is the apex
of all of our situations.
I did five years of lockup,
three and a half
of it in isolation.
You know, I was in
a small cell, solid door.
Really limited
contact with anybody.
But a friend of
mine two doors down,
he was telling me
about these birds
that had built
a nest in his window.
I was like, "Man, I wish some
birds would nest in my window."
You know what I mean?
The next spring, they came
and nested in my window.
Some turtledoves.
Turtledoves, they raise
their kids together.
And every morning,
like clockwork,
the father bird would sing.
And that's what
woke me up every morning.
But then, I'm brushing my teeth,
and I hear wings against my window.
And when I came up, I seen the hawk
reach in there
and snatch the baby bird.
And I think it's
the following day,
that fucking hawk reached in
there and grabbed the mom.
And every night and every
morning, that father bird came
to the nest and he would sing,
and it was just the most
horrible, sad...
It was like a mourning...
a mourning song that he sung.
Do you see yourself as
the father bird or the baby bird?
I guess see myself in both.
Are you a husband?
No, I'm divorced.
Okay, are you a father?
You feel like you a good father?
No? Why is that?
'Cause I'm in prison.
Is that the only reason?
My youngest daughter,
we were talking on the phone
and she come down and seen me
a few times, but then,
one day, she just looked
at me and she said,
"Why did you abandon me?"
Her reaction made me realize,
in that instant,
how much of a piece of crap
I turned out to be.
Do you believe though,
being that you know
how you were living,
do you believe your kids
were better off without you?
My actions bringing that to...
bringing that to the doorstep
of my family, I can't...
Yeah, they're better off.
They're better off.
And we didn't feel
none of that back then.
It's like Franko
was talking about,
we just couldn't
get it back then.
We were just living,
you know what I mean?
We wrapped up in dope
and drinking lifestyle
on the streets.
Now, we do get it.
It's a hard truth, ain't it?
This is Madeleine.
Hey, Madeleine.
Hey, you guys.
Are you excited
to film some more?
Yeah, what are we doing?
I'm gonna be
bringing a rough cut
to show you guys on Monday.
It's about
two-thirds of the movie,
so I set aside three days to do
a final shoot. Cool.
So you guys
can watch the cut so far,
and you're gonna give me
all of your notes,
and then figure out what you wanna
do together for the ending.
Bring my director's outfit then.
So, okay, so I'll
see you all in a couple days.
All right. All right.
Yeah. Awesome. Bye bye!
Take care of yourself, Madeleine.
Be safe!
You guys have a good trip.
That's crazy.
Great job!
That was intense.
There wasn't an ending.
Yeah, it's not done.
What do you guys think?
I liked it.
Tell me your
overarching reactions.
It's a great story...
I'll go first.
I just wanna be able
to look at everybody...
'Cause it's more hard
when I'm cranking this way
and that way trying
to see everybody.
I got a few notes here.
One of them is,
I actually felt like
there was some of that
classroom stuff that just...
seemed frivolous. That like...
Like it really didn't
belong. It was just,
Which parts?
I can't really put
my finger on it.
We was just talking.
We weren't really
getting at anything.
Then, um,
I didn't like the sound
of my voice there.
You know, I
could tell Franko's voice.
I could tell Quintes.
I could tell everybody's voice,
and I'm like, "Why does my
voice sound so weird?" What?
You know? My voice
don't even sound like me.
When you're hearing that?
Yeah. But, I mean,
everybody sounded so...
You're not used to
hearing your own voice.
Who the fuck is that?
And then...
the scene when we was talking
about how everybody's story
is different, and yet,
we all ended up here.
I was glad to see that.
So, who's watching it? Maybe a
teenager's watching it, you know,
and maybe that, you know,
will have an impact on him.
So, I mean, those are the notes
I took from it so far, so...
I got, like, very specific on
what I liked and didn't like.
Like, the part where
Quintes' cousin disappeared,
in the animation, I would
like to have the cousins'...
outfits turn into
county jumpsuits
before they disappear. And, uh,
where it was talking about Shawn
as the kid on the big wheel,
I was thinking
we could make him, like,
a real big kid on
a small big wheel.
He's definitely too big for
the big wheel.
The Benz, that sound,
that wasn't a Benz.
That was... more
like a Honda or something.
Yeah, so, that wasn't no Benz.
I'll... What I do like
is the fact that I see...
That ain't what he asked you.
I know. Let...
You get to do all the talking,
you ain't gonna let me answer
my question the way I want to?
So, but what I do
like that's different
from the rest is the part
that there are men
in prison doing
their own documentary.
Mmm. I thought those were some
of the most exciting parts.
Just to hear y'all dialogue
outside of, you know,
the real moments of Q&A.
Um... Thought that was cool.
When he's, you know, Dennis got
emotional and stuff, I think that was
a strong part of the movie, right?
It made him look like himself.
I see he was like,
man, I ain't telling
nobody else's story again.
I ain't like the feel of that.
Because of the results of me...
of when I told the story,
how he got emotional,
and flashed back,
you know what I'm saying?
Went through
the motions and whatnot.
You know what I'm saying?
That's why I was telling him
that I'm not telling
nobody else's story.
But why? What was
wrong with it that you felt...
It was just too emotional.
For you, too?
Well, it had an effect on me,
you know what I'm saying?
To see him go through that.
Relive that,
you know what I mean?
I mean, I get it.
I mean, I wouldn't...
I wouldn't wanna...
do that either, if the shoe
was on the other foot.
I wouldn't wanna...
I thought that was kind of
something we can grow with.
Like, you know,
how uncomfortable it is
for the storyteller
telling somebody else's story...
The facts. Where are we going
with the ending? Where...
That's what we're
here for now, to do this.
Yeah, where are we going?
Yeah, where you...
How to deal with the crimes?
The crime itself?
Is that where y'all see it going?
I think that's really
where it has to go
in order for it to
really make sense.
You gonna have to.
There are times
when I feel like, man,
I don't know that
I even wanna be here.
You know, in the group.
You know, I'm like,
man, I just don't
know if that's for me.
What do you think now?
I mean...
I wanna see the finished cut.
You know, I wanna see
it through. You know.
I don't wanna be a quitter,
that's how I feel right now.
I wanna see it through.
I wanna see the end of it.
Got it, Franko?
All right, it says recording.
What'd you
think about yesterday?
I went back out.
I meditated on it...
The climax...
the ending...
what's the last thought that
we wanna convey
to our audience? I see...
the opportunity for us...
to talk about the elephant in the room.
Given that you have
the victims in this situation,
how do you feel about
actually explaining that,
or even showing
the incident, the vile
incident, that took place?
You know, the victim's mother,
she's been missing her baby
since day one.
This was a close friend of yours?
I know his mother was
shocked, you know,
'cause me and the dude was
together like every day.
And drugs caused best
friends to become enemies.
And to see it, I think that would
torment and cause them pain.
Are they reliving that
pain all over again?
So, you wouldn't wanna show it?
No, I didn't say I didn't
wanna show it, but...
I feel like if I was
to share my story,
would this prevent somebody else
from committing violence?
Would you show the whole
situation, how it unfolded?
You would have to.
No, I don't think you would.
Just how did
the violence come about.
I don't wanna assume
what may have happened here.
I wanna see it all.
I wanna know how you
got from here to here.
Right... Okay.
I want you to tell me.
It's the truth. I think that's
what they want, the truth.
So, how do we deal with that?
Do we show you...
stabbing the guy?
Is it worth it,
showing you coming
into the house and...?
I don't know, that
would be your decision.
That would be your decision.
No, I'm asking you.
One of the
things I think about is
just selling drugs, to get into the
mentality of kill or be killed.
How does one go
from that transition?
Pull the trigger.
Well, what would
cause that? Like,
you knew what you
was getting into.
I don't know. I don't...
I just did what I had to do.
Was it your own law,
or was it the law of the street
that you had to respond
this way?
That was my law.
That's how I chose to...
defend my... So, do you
still feel the same way?
Like, if someone did
that to your kid now,
would you do the same thing?
I would knock his head off.
I think it might
be worth considering that,
actually, a lot of people
who might be watching this
could come from communities
where they don't know anybody
who's ever killed anyone.
In America today?
You think you can
go back to your yearbooks
from elementary on,
and not find somebody in there
that's in prison for murder,
or who's been murdered?
Nobody from your...
I see people here today,
in prison today that
I lived with on the streets.
You guys might have
a different experience
of the world
of violence than most people...
It was... distant from them.
That's, well, that's
the reason we doing this.
Is to tell
these stories
about our lives.
That's what this thing...
ironed out to be.
It's my story.
It's my story. My story,
it deserves to be known.
Okay, so let's carry
on with your story then.
If we're going
forward down the path...
what's the next step?
I was selling dope.
And, one day,
I had my son with me.
My dad said, "Let's jump
on the kid's bike and, uh,
go over to the neighborhood,
see what's going on."
I had left my foster home,
and I was working for
the two people I killed.
They were cleaning windows, and
I walked up to them and said,
"Hey, you know, I used to clean
windows with my dad."
Right then and there,
on the spot, he gave me a job.
One day, I'm at...
at the gas station...
...and he pull up
with some other dudes.
Before he even get
there, we hear him.
We like, "Man, who is this?"
I said, "Look, my man's
mama trying to rest up, man,
"recuperate from chemotherapy.
"I need you to respect
the set, man.
"I need you to turn
that music down,
and kill them lights."
So, we got to barking.
We sitting in
the little dope house.
The door come flying open.
He put the gun to my son's head.
"Where the dope
and the money at?"
So, I look at him.
I just raised the pillow up,
and gave him the little
money I had in my pocket.
And there was a grape
pop stain on the carpet.
And he asked me to clean up
the stain.
I said, "Man, I'm not
cleaning up that man's stain.
"He did that. He was here
all day. We were working.
You know,
let him clean it up."
I left, bought two hits of acid.
Went and got high.
I'm laying out there, watching the
stars shoot each other and everything.
Then, I went back to the house.
When he hit me,
it didn't even phase me
'cause my mind
at that point was,
"You gonna die."
I didn't see him again
for a month or so.
What were you feeling
when you left to get the gun?
So, I tried to
open the car door.
So, I'm like, damn,
you wanted to talk?
And then when you had
your pistol, all of a sudden,
you don't wanna talk to me now, huh?
He pulling on the car
door for dear life.
I would think it would show
him coming up
and kicking me in my side.
Come on, wake up!
Waking me up
and it coming to a brawl.
My right hand to the most high,
when I reached for the Glock,
it jumped in my hand, bro.
I do think it was murder,
and I did I walk
back over to Tom
and shot him
in the back of the head.
I did do that.
When you committed the act,
you felt justified.
Yeah. At
the time, yeah.
Okay, Dennis.
We wanted to ask
if you could change
just one thing,
what would that be?
I think when I look
back at my life,
there's forks in the road.
You know, if I got...
Gotten high that night,
and just spent the night
at my girlfriend's house.
I'd have put on my shoes,
tied 'em up, threw on my shirt,
grabbed my stuff,
and been out the door.
The day I decided
to start selling drugs
is the day I should have
made a better choice.
As a child, I shouldn't have
been worried about the struggle.
I should've just accepted them,
and allowed my parents
to deal with them, so it was...
it wasn't meant for me to fix.
The thing I would change?
That ain't no easy
question for me to answer,
I'm gonna be honest with you.
Sure, sure.
I wouldn't even put myself
in that environment.
That was the whole thing.
Did you ever think
that you might go to college?
Nah. Nah, not college.
It just wasn't even something
that was in my mind.
Today, as a grown man... was my fault that I had
my son with me, I know that.
What did you want out of life?
Where did you see yourself?
What was your purpose?
I never had thoughts about that.
It was all about survival.
About survival, right.
It's like in
the wild, wild West.
Meet me outside at high noon,
we got this shootout going on.
Well, that was
the illusion though.
And it's amazing to me to...
be able to see that now
versus, you know,
me doing it then.
Catch them while they're young,
you know what I'm saying,
you teach them
the right thing...
So, how young?
That's what they gonna use.
When they come out of the womb.
Before they even
get out of the womb.
Man remains in existence,
and his actions
accumulate beside him.
And we say the thought
is the cause of it all.
Well, if the thought
is the cause of it all,
what is the physical world for?
And my understanding is
we done came down to this plane,
and everything is slowed down,
so we can learn
how to think properly.
You gotta think
about what's right.
I'm gonna go
ahead and read this.
That's what I was
thinking about last night
in case you decide to use
it in the future. Okay?
Hello, my name is Dennis.
Do you think you could
look at me and say,
"There is a good carpenter,
mechanic, scholar,"
knowing that I was a murderer?
If I told you that
I studied culinary arts,
would call me a chef,
knowing that I was a murderer?
If I told you I had studied
machine technology,
would you call me a machinist,
knowing I was a murderer?
Probably not
because I'm still a murderer.
When I first committed
these two murders,
I only thought of how
I fucked up my life.
Somewhere along the way,
I began thinking of
the family members,
mine and the victims',
and how they must feel.
How I've impacted them,
and how no one will
ever be the same again.
Though I completed all
the programs I mentioned above,
I will always be
a murderer first.
I'm resolved to accept that.
I could never take the life
of another person today.
I will never allow myself to be
the dysfunctional
punk I once was,
even if you never believe
I could ever be anything more.
I know who I am today,
and I am nothing like
I was 30 years ago.
Keep it rolling.
Keep it rolling.
So, what was the best part
of making this film?
Just having the opportunity
to participate in something
different, something new that
I never thought I'd see.
I mean, I'm grateful that
I got to meet you guys
and to get to learn
a little bit more about you.
So, how would you describe
the process of learning
how to make a movie?
It's long.
It's a lot of good old memories,
a lot of bad memories.
You know, uh...
It was kind of challenging
bringing them up
and just sharing
them with people.
What did you
learn from this process...
Oh, it's got the autofocus on.
Cameraman, he ain't learn
nothing through the project...
Is this your life,
where violence is
the order of the day?
Dysfunction all around you,
the more that you feel safe.
Overlooking opportunities,
unaware of what they are.
Fearful of moving ahead,
picking at your scars.
Is this your life, where
middle-class is not enough?
Great support from mom,
but the streets show you love.
Your names ring a bell
like a pistol in your head.
Quit the 9-to-5 'cause
you out here getting made.
Is this your life,
overwhelmed by addiction?
A parent at heart, but not
there for your children?
Drugs altered the home, let the family
pitch a tent, now you have regrets.
It's a hard truth, ain't it?
Is this your life, hustling
to get the bills paid?
Giving your mom money
at 13 years of age,
full-fledged with it.
Divided by choice.
You Radio Raheem, you ain't
turning down the noise.
Is this your life,
where they pack
weapons like the army?
The whole hood represent
the essence of the zombie?
Friends become enemies over
drugs and loose change.
An environment that breeds
no love, just new gangs.
If this is your life,
you don't wanna end up here.
In prison, they count decades,
not count the years.
The crime ain't worth the time,
that's a true statement.
This ain't the life you want,
and you have the power
to change it.
Yeah, what he said!
Fade to black.