Thursday, May 6, 2021

Reefa Review: A Dramatic Look At An Artistic Life

Ricardo Chavira	...	Officer Morales José Zúñiga	José Zúñiga	...	Israel Sr. Cinthya Carmona	Cinthya Carmona	...	Offir George Sear	George Sear	...	Etone Tyler Dean Flores	Tyler Dean Flores	...	Israel 'Reefa' Hernandez Margarita Rosa de Francisco	Margarita Rosa de Francisco	...	Jackeline Clara McGregor	Clara McGregor	...	Frankie Richard Haylor	Richard Haylor	...	Patrick Ezana Alem	Ezana Alem	...	Thiago Gregg Weiner	Gregg Weiner	...	Vet Francesca Chillemi	Francesca Chillemi	...	Gabrielle Ellen Marguerite Cullivan	Ellen Marguerite Cullivan	...	Protester Karlos Sanchez	Karlos Sanchez	...	Felix Antonella Cassia	Antonella Cassia	...	Party guest / drug addict Wil J. Jackson	Wil J. Jackson	...	Officer Landa Scott Deal	Scott Deal	...	Detective #1 Sidnei Barboza	Sidnei Barboza	...	Party guest

Release date: April 16, 2021
Running time: 96 minutes
Written By: Jessica Kavana Dornbusch
Starring: Tyler Dean Flores, George Sear, Clara McGregor, Cinthya Carmona, Ricardo Chavira

REEFA is based on the true story of Israel "Reefa" Hernandez Jr., an 18-year-old Colombian immigrant and art prodigy, who is spending his last summer in Miami with friends, family and his new girl Frankie before moving to New York City on an art scholarship. While Israel and his friends skateboard the city streets and spray-paint the walls of Wynwood, Miami’s graffiti Mecca, anxieties emerge twofold: Israel and his family nervously await their Green Cards while he desperately seeks recognition for his art. When Israel decides to spray paint one last wall, a piece which would command immediate respect from his peers, a sudden encounter with a vengeful Miami police officer leaves his family and friends devastated, the Miami community outraged, and the country reeling from another case of police brutality.

Steve Gibb	...	X Christy Antonio	Christy Antonio	...	Allison Ginsberg Patrick H. Fox	Patrick H. Fox	...	Party Guest Pamela Longsword	Pamela Longsword	...	Vivian Aden Karp	Aden Karp	...	Kobi Carlos Orizondo	Carlos Orizondo	...	Herman Maria V. Diaz	Maria V. Diaz	...	Protester Michael Raymond Pereira	Michael Raymond Pereira	...	Mr. O'hare Mike Guzman	Mike Guzman	...	Protestor (uncredited) Ezell Willis	Ezell Willis	...	Activist (uncredited)
Reefa is a touching story to tell and it is made all the more impactful by the performance of Tyler Dean Flores.  I really liked his portrayal as Reefa, with an ease and charisma that I imagine the real life counterpart had.  The film portrays his artistic side, showing his skill in various mediums but most noticeably in his graffiti.  It portrays the world he was in, time with his friends, and the overall art scene in Miami at the time.  And it also does a good job of melding his art in with immigration and the fear that many Miami residents lived in at the time.  It shows the constant concern with stepping out of line and how the police abused their power because of this fear. 

But although Reefa has good moments of drama, the film can feel overdramatic at times.  Some of the scenes seem to try and sell the tragic overall nature of the film too hard.  Reefa has some over the top emotions portrayed, and this can hurt the overall impact of the film.  It was clearly a labor of love for the life of Israel Hernandez, but I don't think it had the same emotional impact as say Fruitvale Station.  And although this film is based around the life of Hernandez, it is tough to tell how much is real and how much is for Hollywood.  It feels like some aspects were added to make the movie a more dramatic telling of his story.  

But what is so impactful about this movie is just how senseless his killing was.  I didn't understand his need to paint that final mural, which made it odd to see why he would risk his family for that.  But the reasoning isn't relevant when the response from the police was to tase this young man to death.  It was a senseless killing, like so many senseless killings that are happening in America every day.  It shows how an uncaring officer can snuff out a young, beautiful, and artistic life far too soon.  And it also shows that behind the number, there was a life full of hope and potential that was snuffed out.

Reefa tells the story of a beautiful, artistic soul with a great performance by Flores and a clear love of graffiti, Miami, and artistic endeavors.

Rent it.

Directed by  Jessica Kavana Dornbusch	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Jessica Kavana Dornbusch   art graffiti police brutality
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Reefa is available digitally and on demand on April 16, 2021. 

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