By Adam Ray Palmer
Amman Abbasi comes to the Berlinale with his debut film Dayveon. He’s a young filmmaker with a background in composing soundtracks.
Dayveon stars Devin Blackmon, Kordell "KD" Johnson, Dontrell Bright, Chasity Moore, Lachion Buckingham and Marquell Manning.
Dayveon is a short indie film hoping to take the Berlinale by storm…
In the wake of his older brother's death, 13-year-old Dayveon (Devin Blackmon) spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town. When he falls in with a local gang, he becomes drawn to the camaraderie and violence of their world.
We begin with Dayveon, or ‘Day Day’ as his closest call him, working out and calling everything around him “stupid”. We know immediately he has had some kind of trauma as he feels the need to prove his masculinity at the age of 13, pumping iron and cussing the grass – what has grass ever done to anyone? (apart from hay fever sufferers before you comment it!).
Once in his room, we see his idol has been shot and killed – his idol is his older brother. The scene is set, we have a young boy trying to find his way in an unfair world, growing up in dysfunctional family where his sister is mothering him. Dayveon finds solace and unity by joining the local gang, the ‘Bloods’. Whilst in this hoodlum, he has his eyes opened to a wealth of criminal activity including numerous robberies and a shooting. This is a slippery path to go down.
Taking a step back and reading those two paragraphs above, nothing seems too original, does it? I would say that’s half right. Where Dayveon (the film) lacks creativity is in the narrative, we have seen this all before. However, the movie has a trick up its sleeve. Dayveon is told from the point of view of Day Day. This film is a look at gang life through the eyes of a 13-year-old.
This filmmaking style of Abbasi is welcomed. For his debut film, Amman has chosen a difficult subject, that is over-saturated in film but puts a unique twist on the shots. For instance, when the shooting occurs midway through the film, we only hear the gunshots as the camera stays with Dayveon outside the store. At no point, do we see violence, blood or hear any dialogue in the obvious altercation. This is refreshing and no doubt cheaper on the budget, but it puts a lot on you Devin Blackmon’s shoulders.
Blackmon’s performance is surprisingly mature for this being his only film credit. With the narrative direction at his feet, the camera must constantly be so close to his face to capture every expression he feels. There’s several scenes where we see his innocence in sequences that really make you remember he is only 13 years old. When he is a club environment, he drinks numerous shots to calm his nerves to look one of the crew; resulting in an unflattering perch over the toilet chucking up.
Overall, Dayveon is a valiant effort for a debut filmmaker. The short runtime of 75 minutes is decent to include every necessary scene and cut out the padding. I just can’t help but think it could be shortened even further, perhaps to a punchy short film. The narrative is limited as we have seen every kind of shootout before and perhaps the budget wouldn’t allow much more action. The film just seemed to peter out with a lacklustre climax. With a tidier ending and trimming of a few minutes, this could be a polished piece.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Dayveon premiered at the Berlinale on 9th February 2017 – certificate TBC