[Toronto True Crime Festival] My Name is Myeisha (2018) - Reviewed

Soiled dreams, salvaged from the subconscious of our forefathers are the fabrics of modern America; stitched together by an endless sea of social media microcosms.  Hate, paranoia, fear, and confusion have permeated virtually every aspect of modern living, one of the many unforeseen consequences of a world permanently connected.  One of the other unexpected results of the marriage of social technology and human existence is the revelation of the horrors that transpire on an almost daily basis, many of which are domestic.  Over the last decade, police involved shootings have become a topic of national debate.  Activist groups have started iconic movements while law enforcement continues to evolve its practices to ensure honest policiing.  Regardless of which side of the divide one stands on, the fact that many minority Americans are being gunned down in the streets is a startling reality.

Gus Krieger's somber masterwork, My Name is Myeisha is a devastating, hip-hop odyssey into the life of a young woman who is shot multiple times by police officers.  Based on the real-life shooting of Tyisha Miller and adapted from an acclaimed stage play by Rickerby Hinds, Myeisha features one of the greatest performances by an actress this year thus far.  This is not only an exceptional film for fans of unique, heartbreaking storytelling, it is also a quintessential foray into the complex issues that both minorities and law enforcement officers face every day.  Krieger's dynamic approach, using a mixture of rap, poetry, and theatrical flourishes, tells the story of Myeisha's last moments on Earth, with mediations on both the past and future interspersed between the dozen gunshots that killed her.  

Jeff Moriarty's cinematography, guided by Krieger’s unusual compositions immediately invokes thoughts of Spike Lee's early efforts.  The colors are at war, much like the world that Myeisha inhabits.  Countless surreal sequences are framed with black, like a theater play, while many of the memory sequences are drenched in vibrant, popping colors, both exposing the life that is now gone and ruminating on what her future potential could have been.

Everything is carried by a one of a kind central performance by Rhaechyl Walker.  Walker's dedication to the role and belief in the project is so profound, she almost floats off the screen, an ethereal representation of lives ended too soon.  She commands virtually every screen, singing, dancing, rapping, and most importantly: living.  For as much as Myeisha is a story about death, it is also a celebration of life and poignant reminder of just how precious it is.  Walker is supported by John Merchant who plays several different roles throughout the story and his ability to fade in and out of different personas is the perfect accompaniment to Walker’s unbridled passion. 

The end result is a powerful, painfully real story that needs to be experienced by all.  While complex issues swirl around the central, undeniable racial divide that has always lived within the heart of America, My Name is Myeisha is an astounding reminder that life is a beautiful, priceless thing that must be respected, and protected at all costs.  

--Kyle Jonathan