Class Action

With 'Justice,' a pair of Twin Cities civil rights lawyers raise the bar for African American filmmaking

Another young Rondo resident inspired by Parks was Timothy McKinney--who, only a year after Shaft's premiere in 1971, began production on a fictionalized account of the destruction of his neighborhood caused by the rerouting of I-94 in the late 1960s. With its vengeful protagonist and radical politics, Hampton Alexander--directed by McKinney when he was just 19 years old--is a movie rooted in genuine and legitimate anger, as well as a rare historical document of a lost part of Twin Cities culture and black culture. If Hampton Alexander marked Rondo's inevitable decline, followed by an economic plight that lasted almost two decades, Laurel Avenue welcomed its renaissance, sketching the neighborhood as a virtual Sugar Hill of the Twin Cities.

Some smaller local productions have been part of the legacy, from producer Daniel Bergin's children's film Zero Streak to Marie-Françcois Theodore's recent experimental short "Rebel in the Soul." But now there's Justice. While several hundred protesters wave signs ("Justice for All!") and chant slogans ("No More Racism!") on the steps of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (shrewdly cast as a courthouse), local news anchor Robyne Robinson stands before a news crew making her cameo as an on-the-scene reporter. Shulman is at the top of the steps giving direction through a megaphone, his young son perched atop his shoulders. A driver in a passing car shouts, "Go home!" to the extras, having seemingly confused them for protesters of the war in Iraq.

Two of the extras linger on the sidelines and discuss the excitement of being involved in the movie. "Hey, man," says one to the other. "I met that star--Roger--today. Great guy."

Approaching the bench: 'Justice' co-directors Jeanne-Marie Almonor and John Shulman (with Allen Hamilton at right)
Courtesy of Jujitsu Films, LLC
Approaching the bench: 'Justice' co-directors Jeanne-Marie Almonor and John Shulman (with Allen Hamilton at right)

"Yeah, well," the other nonchalantly replies, "I'm from L.A. They do this all the time down there."

The extra from Minnesota takes a deep breath, as if waiting for...justice. "Well, you know," he says, "we just want our place on the map."

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