In the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2011, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former Marine with a heart condition and a history of mental health challenges, accidentally pressed the button on his medical alert pager while sleeping.
Local police were dispatched to Chamberlain’s public housing apartment in White Plains, New York, along with an ambulance. What followed was an escalating series of events inflamed by police mishandling, explicit racial bias and sheer arrogance that ended when heavily armed police officers wearing tactical gear forced their way into his apartment where one of them shot him. He died about an hour later at the hospital.
This isn’t the first time a person of color has been unjustly slain due to negligence and impatience on behalf of police officers. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many more have had their lives cut short due to the negligent, prejudicial attitude of the boys in blue. It’s unjust, unfair and unwarranted.
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain is a glaring, emotionally turbulent reminder of how lives have been snuffed and discarded like yesterday’s trash. Frankie Faison is unbelievable as Kenneth Chamberlain and will make your heart bleed for how seniors, especially our veterans are continuously disrespected. His tour de force performance has earned a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination and Gotham Independent Film Award for Outstanding Lead Performance.
The three officers who arrive at Chamberlains’s apartment on Lexington Avenue are conflicted amongst the ranks. Sgt. Parks (Steven O’Connell) and Officer Jackson (Ben Marten) walk into the foyer making annoying and disgraceful remarks about the people living there. Officer Rossi (Enrico Natale) expresses concern with a rationality that gives hope to the viewers but in the end merely makes him look like a soft rookie in the eyes of the other two cops.
Director/Writer David Midell does an exceptional job of illustrating how the event was escalated through a series of calls, concerned neighbors and relatives. We also see how there is always that one cop who knows in the pit of his belly that what is transpiring is morally and legally just plain wrong.
Midell makes a clear audio/visual distinction between the florescent lit tight hallway outside the door and yellow-amber tones inside of Chamberlain’s apartment. The audience is also given a glimpse into what is going on inside Kenneth’s head with sound masked and distorted by the hearing aid he wears, which sometimes can feedback in an alarming manner heightening the tension.
Kenneth Chamberlain deserved better from the law enforcement in his community who unjustly judged and took a life that still deserves to inhabit on this earth. This film is a cautionary tale with circumstances – non of which should never be repeated – EVER.
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain can now be screened on Amazon Prime and Vudu.