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Officials Get First Look at Gun-Violence Film

Oct. 30, 2008 — Top U.S. and V.I. law-enforcement personnel and government officials Thursday night previewed the anti-gun violence film they commissioned, which gives realistic scenes a local accent.
"To me it mirrors what exactly goes on out in the street," Federal Public Defender Thurston McKelvin said. "It mirrors the process and mirrors this end (the court system)."
The film, "In an Instant," was commissioned in a collaborative effort between the courts, the U.S. Attorney's office, U.S. Marshals Service, the V.I. Attorney General, the U.S. Public Defender's Office and other law-enforcement agencies. The debut was originally scheduled for two weeks ago, but Hurricane Omar called out the invited audience — the territory's first responders.
The film is just one of the anti-crime outreach programs the courts are involved with, according to Federal District Court Judge Curtis Gómez.
Designed to deter illegal weapons and gun violence, the film was entirely a local effort, with big-studio look and feel. (See "Anti-Violence Film Aimed at Territory's Youth.") Featuring local actors from the court system and police department, as well as students from the St. Thomas-St. John School District, even the screenplay was written by U.S. Attorney Nelson L. Jones, according to acting U.S. Attorney Paul Murphy.
"There is a need to make people aware that there are consequences," Gómez said.
Audience members watched the film in Gómez's courtroom, where some of the scenes were filmed.
"The terrible thing is the unknowns," McKelvin said. "It is unknown to you where possession is going to lead you. You don't know with the guys out there on the streets — a gun makes them feel like they are bigger than they are. Then things get out of control."
Viewers hoped that the film's local look would get the attention of the territory's viewers.
"I have met every one of those young people in that film, and I know that a film like this will go over well," said Jeanette Smith-Barry, insular superintendent for the St. Thomas-St. John school district. "It was just so real."
The film's message about gun violence should be shown to young people across the territory, the superintendent said in remarks following the film.
"It is something that every high school student needs to see," Smith-Barry said. "It [the message] is that clear and that vivid that they can relate to it. It is short and it gets the message across exceedingly well."
The superintendent praised the collaborative effort from the courts and law enforcement.
"To save these young people, all of us are going to have to put our hands in," Smith-Barry said.
ISW Studios, which made the film for law enforcement, also praised the effectiveness of the film's message about the consequences of gun violence.
"We are not trying to entertain these kids, we are trying to get a message across," said Dan McGuinness, one of the partners in ISW.
The film's target audience is the 16-to-19-year-old crowd. It will be shown at schools and other venues, and possibly Caribbean Cinemas, according to McGuinness, who said talks are underway with the theaters.
"The film was on point," said 19-year-old Police Cadet Akeem Turnbull. "It showed the real aspect. It wasn't like a movie — it was more direct, more like home. It made it feel like it could happen to anybody. I could connect to them [the characters]; they spoke in local dialect."
Police Sgt. Bridget M. Conow, territorial supervisor for crime prevention, agreed with Turnbull. Conow and several of the cadets noted that one scene of the film is particularly poignant.
The scene shows a four-year-old child picking up an illegal weapon off a bed in his home and playing with it. The suspense in the scene made them worry the child might discharge the gun, Conow and the cadets said.
"The message is so strong, kids will receive it in an entertainment aspect," Conow said. "It is different than seeing it on TV with continentals speaking with continental accents — here it was with local dialect, and the little boy in the film could be your neighbor or your nephew or your son. Its message came straight."
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