Raltat and Blue Caprice were two of the 73 films shown by the African Diaspora International Film Festival. They were both inspired by true events; Raltat is an international film by African American filmmaker Al Robbins and Blue Caprice was directed by Alexander Moors. Both address real human-interest issues that hit close to home.
Raltat is inspired by the mistaken identity of Laila Atta, a Moroccan woman played by Nadia Kounda whose husband, played by Firas Natour, is suspected of being Muhammad Atta. Atta is one of the lead hi-jackers who crashed American Airline Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As a result, his wife is then detained and questioned by the FBI in its connection.
This film addresses many issues that arose after the 9/11 attacks: Atta’s pregnant wife’s fourth amendment is violated when she’s detained and searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for numerous hours. In addition to being terrified, she loses her job and the couple is forced to relocate to another state to get away from the accusations. This film is the ideal example of the unjust and maltreatment that many Muslims faced after 9/11 due to suspicions of terrorist involvement.
Blue Caprice was inspired by the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002 which resulted in the fatal shootings of 17 people, injuring 10 others over a period of three weeks along the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C.’s metropolitan area and Washington State. The shootings were coordinated by John Allen Muhammad played by Isaiah Washington and Lee Boyd Malvo, a 17-year-old Jamaican teen, played by Tequan Richmond, who is lured into a life of crime in America by a dangerous father figure.
However Moors, the director, made some changes to the original story. For example, Malvo’s character is from Brazil instead of Jamaica where he meets Muhammad’s character. Malvo is completely withdrawn and envious of the relationship Muhammad’s character has with his children. Coming from a household of neglect and in need of father figure, Malvo is taken under the wing of Muhammad and is lured to America.
The film is told through the point of view of the two killers and it, ultimately, reveals that many of the shootings were random; a variety of people were shot randomly as a method to keep authorities off their trail, also as a tactic to conceal their identities and their senseless motive. This film shows a distorted father-son relationship of naïvete. Malvo is an under-aged boy in a foreign land pressured into committing violent crimes to gain the love and affection of a deeply troubled man. Muhammad had overwhelming power over Malvo in that he was the perpetrator of all the shootings.
Both of these films dealt with events that impacted America. Being featured as films shown by ADFF served a great purpose. In Raltat, the FBI’s treatment of the pregnant Laila almost brought me to tears because she was stripped, searched, and starved for hours. Meanwhile, she was an innocent woman whose only guilt was marrying an Egyptian man baring the same name as the 9/11 hi-jackers, traveling to the states where the terrorists had traveled.
Blue Caprice was extremely intense, and in the beginning I felt empathy for Malvo’s character because his desire for a family drove him into the hands of a criminal. Muhammad’s character completely abused the boy’s love and trust and persuaded him to take innocent lives. But ultimately, he had to be held responsible for his actions.