Friday, August 6, 2021

Finding Kendrick Johnson Review: A Heartfelt Exploration Into An Uninvestigated Death

Release date: August 3, 2021
Running time: 105 minutes
Directed By: Jason Pollock
Narrated By: Jenifer Lewis
Produced By: Malcolm D. Lee

On January 11th, 2013, Kendrick Johnson was found dead in his high school gymnasium rolled up in a gym mat. The state of Georgia ruled his death as an accident, having died from positional asphyxia. When the family hired their own Forensic Pathologist, not only did he find KJ’s organs missing from his body during the autopsy, he determined the cause of death to be from non-accidental blunt force trauma. To this day, no one knows where KJ’s organs have gone.. So what really happened to KJ?

This documentary is the end result of years of effort by the Johnson family to find out what happened to their child.  Kendrick's body was found with very suspicious circumstances and the official explanation for how he died is strained at best.  This documentary does a good job at breaking down those suspicious circumstances as well as documenting what the family did to both investigate the case and raise awareness of it.  The documentary looks at the strange irregularities with his case, and tries to make sense of some of these occurrences. 

And there are some very strange occurrences.  Kendrick's case was quickly dismissed and there appears to have been some outside influences on the investigation.  The documentary chronicles all of this and ties it into the greater Black Lives Matter movement and the historical instances of injustice for Black Americans.  And it does this with some brutal imagery of Kendirck as well as historical racism.  This documentary is not for the faint of heart as it shows in detailed images and historical records some brutal scenes.  But what is most depressing about this documentary, other than the fact that Kendrick's family still has no answers, is that the family has had to do all the work themselves to get any sort of justice.  From hiring their own medical examiner, to petitioning to have his body exhumed multiple times, to protesting in front of their local representatives, the Johnson family has had to undertake their own efforts to try and get answers in their case. 

But although the case for Kendrick is very strange, the documentary tends to overemphasize the issues with the case and other evidence that it discovers.  To be clear, the investigation that was undertaken for Kendrick was flawed and has lots of irregularities, but the documentary takes hearsay and some other things that might just have been overlooked, and uses it as damning evidence for the case.  It points to a coverup when an equally viable explanation could be simply lazy or incompetent investigators who did not want to look further.  It doesn't seem like Kendrick got justice, and his case needs to be further looked into and explored, but the documentary does not provide the bombshell revelations it seems to think it does.  But that being said, it is a heartfelt documentary about a family's Sisyphean effort to find justice for their son. 

Finding Kendrick Johnson is a horrifying and heartfelt documentary about a family's Sisyphean effort to find justice for their son in a bizarre case and botched investigation.

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Finding Kendrick Johnson is available digitally and on demand on July 30, 2021.  

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