(director/writer: Contessa Gayles; screenwriter: James “JJ’88” Jacobs; cinematographer: Michelle Kwong, Contessa Gayles; editors: Contessa Gayles, Rafe Scobey-Thal, Princess A. Hairston; music: richie reseda, Tairiq Bright, Garfield Bright, James “JJ’88” Jacobs; cast: James “JJ’88” Jacobs, Victor Benjamin, William Jacobs Jr., Janine Jacobs, Reneasha Jacobs, Jacqueline Williams, Naaji Pruitt, Lauren “Indigo Mateo” Jacobs, Myles Lassiter, Devonte Hoy, Jovon Times, Africa Turner, Ernest Walker, Ryleigh Legget, Kellie Evans; Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Contessa Gayles, richie reseda, David Felix Sutcliffe; Cocomotion Pictures; 2024)

“A heart-wrenching hip-hop visual album.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A heart-wrenching hip-hop visual album about the fifteen-year-old James “JJ’88” Jacobs, who fatally shot in LA a man over a perceived gangland slight and has been serving ever since a double-life sentence (at the time of filming, he’s a 31-year-old prisoner who has served 15 years of his sentence).

Days after the murder, the brother of Jacobs was slain in his crime-ridden neighborhood.

The remorseful prisoner is trying to reform from his foul deed and has spent much of the time in solitary confinement, where he’s in “the hole” for whatever reasons. That’s where his professionally realized music is made, as he spends his time making music and thinking how he got here by not controlling his anger.

Jacobs co-writes his story with the talented bleeding heart liberal director, Contessa Gayles (“The Feminist on Cellblock Y”), who gives her subject a fair chance to tell his story and cry out or sing out for justice.

Too bad the dead man couldn’t cry out or sing out with his songs to have his life back. In my opinion, murderers should be executed, while prisoners to be released back in society are the ones in need of a chance to be rehabilitated.

Crime is rampant in the country, and some of the reasons include a failed family structure, a failed judicial and prison systems, racism and poverty. Areas not adequately addressed here.

Murdering someone, even as a juvenile, ordinarily should not be an excuse for not knowing right from wrong.

It played at the SXSW.

REVIEWED ON 4/13/2024  GRADE: C+