Films: The Tested

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The Tested

The Tested

USA, 2010, 107 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African-American, American Indie, Crime, Drama
Programs: Contemporary World Cinema, New Directors Showcase
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Russell Costanzo
Producer: Melissa B. Miller
Editor: Russell Costanzo, Michael Taylor
Screenwriter: Russell Costanzo
Cinematographer: Chris Scarafile
Principal Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Armando Riesco, Frank Vincnt, Michael Morris JR.

The uncompromising first feature film written and directed by Russell Costanzo unfolds on the teeming streets of New York, where three troubled people struggle to cope in the aftermath of a shooting that has taken the life of an African-American teenager. The boy's fiery mother, Darraylynn Warren (Aunjanue Ellis) is consumed by grief, rage, and the urge for revenge. His younger brother, Dre (Michael Morris, Jr., making his film debut), is at age 16 torn between trying to put a useful life together (he's a talented artist) and joining a violent neighborhood gang called the Black Knights. Julian Varone (Armando Riesco) is the white New York cop who killed young Derek Warren in error; after a year as a basket case, he's just now returning to the plainclothes beat, still guilt-ridden and uncertain.

Amid a torrent of rough talk and teen slang, a contemporary urban tragedy begins to take shape. In Costanzo's scheme, every hard-won advance by one of the characters—Dre finds a sweet-tempered girlfriend; his mother starts working for a sympathetic liquor store owner—seems to be counterweighted by a setback. As in the streetwise New York films of Spike Lee and Sidney Lumet, life is harsh in this most unforgiving of cities, and victory over the elements is rare.

For Costanzo, though, the future looks bright. One of the film's executive producers is Frank Vincent, who played mob boss Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos and fills the bill here as a hard-bitten police lieutenant. The young filmmaker clearly has some power in his corner moving forward.

Sponsored by Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado

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