Shawn Levy of The Oregonian, 2.18.08
One of the greatest and most inspiring surprises for me last year was “Finding Normal,” a gripping and moving documentary by local filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, who went deep into the world of recovering addicts and turned up an amazing fly-on-the-wall portrait of the addicts and the peer mentors who help them find a new path in life through a downtown Portland program.
Well, Lindstrom has set his sites on another story set on the local streets: the case of James Chasse, a troubled 42 year old who was effectively beaten to death in September, 2006, in broad daylight on a Pearl District corner by three Portland cops. The Chasse case has been a real lightning rod for critics of the training and technique of police officers, particularly in their encounters with the disenfranchised and/or disturbed. (You can read details of the incident and the shockwaves it produced here.)
Lindstrom has begun work on “Alien Boy,” a documentary about Chasse’s life and death and the issues his killing has raised, and, being a virtual one-man show operating on a not-even-shoestring budget, he could use a hand. It seems to be a perfect marriage of artist and subject matter, and you could feel pretty good about yourself if you visited the film’s web site and donated money or support or even helped tell other folks about the project.
The word you’re looking for is mitzvah.
Film will examine Chasse’s life, death
Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian, 2.12.08
The Mental Health Association of Portland will be working with a Portland filmmaker to produce a documentary about the life and death of James P. Chasse Jr.
The title, “Alien Boy,” refers to a song written by a friend of Chasse, Greg Sage, the lead singer of The Wipers band. As a young teenager, Chasse described The Wipers as “my fave local band” in a magazine he wrote called “The Oregon Organism.”
Sage dedicated the lyrics from his 1979 song “Alien Boy” as a memorial to Chasse, a 42-year-old man who died in police custody Sept. 17, 2006. Chasse, who suffered from schizophrenia, died of broad-based trauma to his chest after police struggled to take him into custody in the Pearl District.
Sage’s lyrics are: “Go and grab your gun; Got him on the run; Cause he’s an alien; They hurt what they don’t understand.”
The association will work with Portland filmmaker Brian Lindstrom to make the film, and follow the family’s civil case against the city and police.
The federal lawsuit, pending in U.S. District Court in Portland, contends that the officers involved violated Chasse’s civil rights and that the city has a pattern of failing to discipline officers involved in use of deadly force.
Lindstrom has made two other documentaries, called “Kicking,” about drug detoxification in Portland, and “Finding Normal,” about recovery from drug addiction, also made in Portland.
“Our hope is to create a film powerful enough to persuade other cities to make the changes Portland did after James died –before someone like James in their hometown dies,” said Jason Renaud, a friend of Chasse’s and a volunteer board member of the mental health association.
The film’s Web site lists the following positive changes made since Chasse’s death: the requirement that all Portland officers complete 40 hours of crisis intervention training; Multnomah County’s call for a sub-acute center to treat people suffering from a mental health crisis; and changes to the Portland Police Bureau’s Use of Force policy that encourages officers to use the “least force reasonably necessary.”
More information about the film can be obtained at the Web site: www.alienboy.org. All donations to the Mental Health Association of Portland this year will go toward the production of the film.
“Only a full, public account of who James was and what happened to him can prevent another tragedy,” the film’s Web site says.
Inara Verzemnieks of The Oregonian – 1.30.2008
Back in 2006, Portland filmmaker Brian Lindstrom spent five months following recovering addicts as they left prison or detox, and tried to rebuild their lives.
The resulting film, “Finding Normal,” is a beautiful, moving meditation on the struggle to stay sober and reclaim the simplest joys. At a time when there seems to be an almost exploitative, voyeuristic fascination with addiction and recovery — “Celebrity Rehab,” “Intervention” — Lindstrom’s film stands in quiet contrast, as it explores the relationships between the addicts and their mentors from Central City Concern’s Recovery Mentor program.
In a review last year, critic Shawn Levy called the documentary “probably the only movie you’ll see this year in which human lives are hanging in the balance in each and every scene. Intimate, moving and unblinking, made on a shoestring budget, it carries more dramatic weight than a billion dollars of Hollywood movies.”
Now, you can catch the film on Friday at a special free screening at Portland’s City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Ave., at 1 p.m.
And you can read a story about Lindstrom and some of the people who participated in the documentary that appeared in the Living section in 2007 here.
Maxine Bernstein article
Scott Learn article