DIR Robinson Devor | USA | 2004 | 80 min.
Sun, Oct 9 | 9:45pm | Granville 7 Theatre 2
Tue, Oct 11 | 9:45pm | VanCity Theatre
Thu, Oct 13 | 12:30pm | Granville 7 Theatre 2
Reviewed by Gloria Wong
A man kills a goose in a city park. A woman is ‘attacked’ by a falling tree branch in her front yard. A schizophrenic tries to walk across a lake. Such are the calls that West African transplant turned bicycle cop ‘Z’ encounters on a daily basis in Robinson Devor’s dreamy, ambitious film. Shot in over 100 different Seattle locations, “Police Beat” is a cop film that’s not a cop film. The numerous crimes that are portrayed in the film – all based on real incidents featured in screenwriter and journalist Charles Mudede’s police blotter column for “The Stranger” – range from the exotic to the mundane, from absurdity to brutality, and serve as a backdrop to the ‘real’ story. It’s a love story, or maybe, the end of a love story. Z’s (white) girlfriend Rachel has decided to go camping with her (male) roommate and hasn’t called him. With each passing day, Z goes about his thankless work as his mind bends further and further around one obsessive thought - that she might be cheating on him.
Fans of Mudede’s “Police Beat” column should know that the film is not an adaptation. Where Mudede’s writing focuses on the humanity of the strange, often haunting crimes he finds, Devor uses the source material to create an atmosphere of disconnection. Both the growing emotional schism between Z and his Rachel and the striking contrast between Z’s eloquent inner monologue (in his native Wolof) and his linguistically minimalist interactions with criminals and citizens become metaphors for a lost sense of community, allowing people to hurt each other in such brutally casual ways everyday. In a pleasing reversal of recent American media, Z, a black Muslim immigrant, the outsider becomes a sort of moral centre for the world he inhabits, helping troubled people when, well, it’s the right thing to do.