IN A COMMUNITY THAT THE WORLD HAS WRITTEN OFF, ONE HOPEFUL AND DETERMINED MAN IS MAKING A LIFE-CHANGING DIFFERENCE
THE BLACK JACKET
The Story of an Ex-Black Panther’s Dream to Heal the Wounds of South Central Los Angeles Comes to Digital HD and DVD From Virgil Films
New York, NY (May 12, 2016) – A former Black Panther in South Central Los Angeles teaches a course that brings rival gang members and community outreach workers together to prevent bloodshed in their communities, and his extraordinary story is now told in THE BLACK JACKET. The powerful new documentary will be available across digital platforms and on DVD from Virgil Films on June 21, 2016.
THE BLACK JACKET, from director Ryan Simon, follows a one-of-a-kind nonprofit as it works to reduce the violence in South Central Los Angeles. Aquil Basheer, a former Black Panther, leads ex-gang members and community outreach workers through a 16-week curriculum recently adopted by the Los Angeles City Council. The mission: Peace. The method: Changing the violent mindsets of gang members one person at a time. The result: Hundreds fewer murders per year and scores of warring neighborhoods communicating and negotiating peace agreements to stop the bloodshed before it starts.
Aquil’s teaching method and course are being adopted in cities throughout the world.
In Simon’s film, the daily struggles of the program are examined simultaneously through the point of view of three characters: Aquil himself, the founder and instructor, street name – The Commander; Reynaldo, a graduate of the program now working in the streets of his community, street name – Wiz; and James, a first-time student of the program, street name – Blue.
Day in and day out, Aquil sets out to accomplish what few have attempted before: Unite rival gang members under a common bond to create more peaceful communities. Combining his passion for peace and their desire to change, Aquil teaches his students intervention, life skills and communication techniques that change not only the individuals who take the class, but also the neighborhoods they return to.
While intervention has been in practice for 40 years in South Central, no one has been able to standardize the work. Through the course of the film we learn the difficulties that Aquil faces in trying to grow the program and the true value of the work that he and his converts are doing. We see the hope in the eyes of the people of these besieged communities as the power of personal transformation is put in their hands.
Breaking the cycle of dependence on the government or external authorities, Aquil’s method helps communities save themselves by transforming the mindsets of practitioners of violence to mindsets that foster peace. The problem is universal, the solution is local. As Aquil says: “It’s on you.”
Director Ryan Simon said of THE BLACK JACKET: “There are countless heartbreaking and amazing stories that go untold in these communities and my hope is that this film provides a jumping off point for discussion and action in places where people have felt left behind by the greater world.”
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THE BLACK JACKET
Digital, VOD, DVD release: June 21, 2016
Running time: 95 minutes