‘Just Mercy’ Touches on Timely Themes of Race, Crime, & Justice
“I just hope [the film] opens their eyes. We’re not beyond reality, where everybody is suddenly going to lead the charge, but as long as it’s out there and everybody can rally around it, to where it’s not black or white, it’s just a human thing. This is a movie where everybody feels like they can help.”
Based on a true story, the new film Just Mercy focuses on the story of a wrongfully accused man behind bars—a common scenario that still haunts our culture today, raising questions about our cultural perceptions of race.
The film is based on the memoir of lawyer and social activist Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther), who, after graduating from Harvard, heads to Alabama to work with inmates on death row—including Walter McMillian, played by Oscar-winning actor, Jamie Foxx (Ray).
McMillian was a pulpwood worker from Monroeville, Alabama, when he was wrongfully convicted of murdering a white woman in 1986, and sentenced to death. A married father of nine with no criminal record, McMillian’s conviction was believed to be the result of police coercion and perjury. He was eventually exonerated in 1993, and passed way in 2013.
The controversial case received national attention beginning in the fall of 1992, when it was featured in the CBS News program “60 Minutes”.
For his role in the new movie, Foxx drew from his own experiences as a black man growing up in Texas. Although he emphasized his love for the south, he also discussed the inevitable issue of race in that region as well.
“I had nothing to do with being born this color, but it’s interesting how much this color brings out rage, brings out anger, brings out happiness, brings out perception, brings out stereotypes, brings out a whole lot of things when you’re black,’” Foxx said. “Being black is the greatest — and sometimes the most difficult. Just being born, somebody hates me for that.”
With the the ongoing debate over racial profiling in crime in the U.S., Just Mercy is surely relevant. In the age of the Black Lives Matter movement, social justice, and inclusion, Foxx sees the new movie as a chance to get audiences interested in these issues.
“I just hope [the film] opens their eyes,” Foxx said. “We’re not beyond reality, where everybody is suddenly going to lead the charge, but as long as it’s out there and everybody can rally around it, to where it’s not black or white, it’s just a human thing. This is a movie where everybody feels like they can help.”