RWMFF 2013 Review: Alien Boy
James Chasse, better known as Jim Jim to loved ones, was an avid lover and creator of art. His passions included punk music, writing poems, doodling comics rooted in absurdity, then leaving them for random people to stumble across in public places. James was different, strange even, but his presence left life-altering impacts on those who knew him well. James loved animals, was a dear friend to some and a beloved son. He also suffered from schizophrenia for most of life. Outside of his circle of friends and acquaintances, James’ legacy is a tragic one, one that starts with his brutal death at the hands of the Portland Police Department.
On September 17th, 2006 James found himself inadvertently in the custody of police after they witnessed what they considered suspicious behavior. The ensuing confrontation between James and officers led to 26 broken bones in 16 of his ribs and a punctured lung. Police failed to mention their use of excessive force to medical examiners and instead hauled James into a squad car. Next, they carried his broken body, as if it were a deer carcass, into a jail cell. His cries for help were ignored. James was neglected long enough to die in custody less than an hour after the altercation.
Alien Boy explores the life of James Chasse starting with his background as an awkward, artsy teenager on to around the time of his death as a loner paranoid schizophrenic at the mercy of his disease in later life. Director Brian Lindstorm intermingles real-life footage, audio, and eyewitness accounts to retell the events on the tragic day of his death and it details how the incident led to public outcry within the community against law enforcement dealings with the mentally ill. Similar to renowned documentarian Errol Morris, Alien Boy’s interviewing aesthetics urges an intimate, serious tone from the film.
Alien Boy questions not just the protocol of Oregon police, but police tactics all across the country. Alien Boy brings viewers’ attention to society’s ways of handling the mentally disabled. It also initiated my own internal interrogation on my thoughts dealing with those in need of mental health. The film not only breathes new life into an anonymous man who suffered from schizophrenia, but it explores the world in which the afflicted retreat to mentally. Alien Boy is a reminder of the lack of awareness the general population has about those affected, and it puts pressure on us all to evolve.
Alien Boy screens as part of the Rendezvous with Madness film festival on Friday, November 15 at 6:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.