Last week, a 13-year-old boy in Washington, D.C. was shot and killed by a youth who wanted his new $100 coat. In New York, two students were recently held up for their designer glasses.
As his senior project, Adams House film tutor Yule Caise '87 explored the reasons that lay behind such actions. What resulted was "Shoes", a film that won a Hoopes Prize last year and will be shown tomorrow throughout the Boston area on WGBH channel 2.
The film will be shown as part of the 19-year-old "Say, Brother" series, a weekly public affairs program on PBS geared to the Black and minority community in the Boston and New England area.
According to a pamphlet about the film, "Shoes" describes "conflicting value systems as a young man [Ronald] goes to elaborate lengths to buy an expensive pair of shoes." These lengths include Ronald threatening at gunpoint an older friend, who has helped him along by serving as a surrogate parent. As a result, the older man tells Ronald to stay out of his life.
Caise said that he "had the idea for this film in my mind for a long time. It was something that had to be made."
"I remember how I felt as an adolescent," said Caise. "I like clothes. I love shoes. But also, some of my best friends never graduated from high school."
The film is based on a one-act play written by Ted Shine in 1973 which Caise adapted after getting "creative license to shred it," he said. He rewrote the dialogue and added his own "rap."
Kamau R. Jamal, a Boston-area resident who plays the part of Travis, one of the three main young characters, said the film is realistic. "Most of my friends are like that. I know a lot of people who carry guns," he said.
Caise said he found his actors by "hanging out in places where I thought they would hang out." For example, in addition to the more conventional method of placing an ad in the paper, he made an announcement at a rap competition. The people he found to play the inner-city kids were well able to handle the task, as they had grown up there themselves, Caise said.
The "Say, Brother" series rarely shows a complete film on the program, according to the principal reporter for the series, Elliot Francis. "In the four years I've been with the series, this is only the third film we've shown," said Francis. "I can't believe this is a film student. It's like he had someone else make it for him."
In 1985, Caise was chosen by the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences to be an apprentice director. He worked with the directors of such popular television shows as "Dallas" and "Spenser for Hire".
"This may sound like a stereotype, but this guy's gonna go somewhere. He has a message, maybe he'll make people think," Francis said. The message of the film will be discussed next week on the "Say, Brother" series.