Inspired by the life of Joseph F. Jones. These words are the first thing you see in the short film by director David Orantes, which was originally released in 2021. Those seven words lend a certain weight to watch comes afterward in the subsequent 23 minutes.
At the age of 16-years-old Malcolm (Jacob Gibson – appeared in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and The Resident), a son of a single mother (Hilary Ward – appeared in episodes of Station 19 and Sharp Objects), was on the path of crime. That path led him to commit an unplanned homicide, which was a class 2 felony. As a result, he was sentenced to prison.
While in prison he converted to Islam. After serving 7 years of his sentence, Malcolm was released early for good conduct. Now at the age of 23, he is a young man who finds himself on a tough path as someone without a job, no high school diploma and no place to live. These circumstances lead to him returning to his mother’s home in Compton and facing the damage he inflicted on his family. Against the odds, he wants to repair the relationship with his mother.
Films like this one immerse the viewer in what it is like to grow up black, male and living in a community like Compton. You get an idea of how there is little chance to not walk the path of crime. Options are not there, not even for a “good” kid. How society has already made a decision about a black male living in that part of Los Angeles or other low income black cities.
Malcolm did what was expected of him and the people he loved were affected. Racism and classism is something that is transmitted through families and entire societies. Options are low. How a religion like Islam can offer a place to turn for these young men. That it shows them there is a different path they can tread. How they can feel not alone in the world. That they are worthy of more. Things that many of us take for granted.
The short screened as part of the Toronto Black Film Festival, Canada’s largest celebration of Black History Month.