NARRATIVE SCREENPLAY/ DRAMA
Writer: Kim Watson
Producers: Sherry Simpson-Dean, George Hambrick, David Piperni,
Director: Juan Castillo
Currently In: Development
Shooting Format: 35mm
Financing Budget: 5,000,000
A desperate Brooklyn man on the run finds himself on an unexpected journey across an island refuge (Jamaica) where he discovers his true adversary is inescapable: his heart.
Twenty-three year old DAMON RANDAL puts family first. From the moment his strung-out father took his mother’s life before his eyes thirteen years ago, he has been source of strength and breadwinner to his grandmother, his drug-addict sister and her daughter—his beloved teenage niece—APRIL. Which trade could permit a Brooklyn teenager such a role? Drugs, a hazardous business in which Damon’s smarts and leadership quickly won him rank, respect and his second family: the crew.
If Damon is crew captain, LAVAR HUTCHINS runs the league. A cunning “entrepreneur” whose tantalizing manner and jagged calculation allow him never to lose, Lavar is boss and mentor to all the youths of his Brooklyn-wide force. This makes Lavar’s betrayal all the more grave and Damon’s response all the more necessary when Lavar adds April to his scroll of clandestine “virgin” conquests. April, now ruined by a disastrous abortion attempt, was Damon’s hope for the family. His options become one: to kill Lavar, a violent course that sends him on a tailspin to his grandmother’s island roots: Jamaica.
Sequestered in Kingston’s dubious Icarus motel, Damon stumbles on a lamp on his wayward path: DEE, a young hustler hard on the surface, but deeply vulnerable at the core, who takes his money, but saves his life. By day, she cleans rooms. By night, she takes dutiful care of eager foreigners seeking island pleasures. She and Damon grow bound by a common burden: heavy guilt and an overwhelming need to run. So, under attack by local grifters, Damon lets Dee lead him out of Kingston and into her family’s rural home in the mountainous heart of the island.
As if Kingston weren’t a strange enough scene for Damon, Dee’s small mountain town presents a distant world too small for a hiding place. Bearing turmoil of her own, Dee takes him to a remote enclave of Maroons, descendents of rebel-slaves led by a revered elder, MORRO, this community’s moral compass, who acquaints Damon with the “old ways” of toiling in the land, pointing him toward the only way to deal with his problem: facing it.
Coming to terms with his own guilt, Damon takes on a surprising challenge. In a daring assault, they bring some local children to safety. Hearing of his best friend’s murder in New York—an unsettling reminder of the threat his relatives face—Damon resolves to go back home, sowing seeds of hope, except that, like his remorse, his enemies have caught up to him determined to make certain he never leaves the island.
Centered on one man’s moral evolution, the film will probe drug faction politics, island ethnic tensions and the complexities of island economics and corruption today. Unraveling in the veins of the New York drug scene and across spectacular Caribbean terrains, this film will be richly textured, socially authentic and morally relevant—a vivid portrait of living culture.
Following one man’s coming of age, we see in Damon a familiar archetype character in American film - the skilled street hustler grasping for the brass ring, all the while bemoaning his fate and looking to get out of his life of crime. What is unique in The River, however, is how this familiar character can find change that feels real to audiences. You will witness that change is wrenchingly difficult, but ultimately possible. As we traverse streets of Brooklyn to the urban and mountain areas on the island of Jamaica, it is these vastly diverse physical and social landscapes that lead Damon to the peace he had always sought.
Underscored by raw authenticity, unfolding in the world’s Caribbean playground, The River will explore the human dimensions of the common drug dealer, the island prostitute and island life as a whole, providing an unromantic, visceral glimpse into Caribbean-wide conditions, a rare window to this tropical cradle of African tradition in the Americas as this story will portray genuine characters in situations that are extreme yet realistic.