The 2022 American Black Film Festival featured in-theater screenings and a virtual component too. Crowds watched feature films, docs and shorts and participated in talk events, networking and of course partied hard. To stay tuned to Black film 24/7/365 go to Meanwhile, these distinguished films were part of the programming.

Civil (**1/2)

Often when there’s a crisis regarding police malfeasance and concerning an African American victim, attorney Benjamin Crump is near. Not as a prosecuting or defense attorney, but as the counsel to aggrieved families who seek justice through lawsuits – the kind that hit negligent police forces and municipalities where it hurts: in the wallet. Crump has established himself as a player, much like Johnny Cochran. His client list is impressive: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor … He’s a hero to many but does have his detractors. Some are rankled that his work is not pro bono, at least not on the well-known cases. His law firm “Ben Crump Trial Lawyer for Justice” has amassed millions for their clients – and themselves. They receive 500 calls a day seeking advice and service.

Director Nadia Hallgren takes a balanced approach to establishing all Crump’s personae: media-savvy attorney, savior, counselor, extended family member, spokesman, activist. Even as a young man he was on a mission: “Lead me. Or follow me. Or get the hell outta my way.” And these days he knows his value: “‘People seek me out because they want somebody they can trust.” As the footage rolls newsclips and videos of Crump, his ego is front and center along with his noteworthy achievements. He has time-tested strategies (make the press an ally), big enemies (Fox News hates him) and has repped less visible cases (Black farmers dealing with pesticide illnesses).

Hallgren’s doc style is pretty routine. From a tech standpoint, nothing is extraordinary: editing, cinematography, music. In fact, considering Crump’s accomplishments, his deeds seem far more impressive than this nonfiction film. After all, he’s the trial lawyer who answered one of the most significant calls in American history: “My cousin was just murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. His name is George Floyd.” A suitably factual doc that needed to be insightful and instructive too.