Dayveon
Dayveon

FilmRise has acquired Dayveon, the feature-film debut of writer-director Amman Abbasi for a planned late Spring release in the U.S.

The film starring Devin Blackmon, Kordell “KD” Johnson, Dontrell Bright, Chasity Moore, Lachion Buckingham and Marquell Manning, had its world premiere as the opening night film at the NEXT sidebar of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

The film tells the story of 13-year-old Dayveon who mourning the death of his older brother, becomes drawn to the camaraderie of a local gang while spending his days roaming around his rural Arkansas town.

Dayveon begins with a boy riding his bike alone on an open road. His mantra—”Everything stupid”—plays out internally as he passes trees, trash cans, rocks, and concrete. He considers his shirt, his bike, his hands. He dubs it all “stupid, stupid, stupid.” The boy, 13-year-old Dayveon (Devin Blackmon), is still hurting from the loss of his older brother, Trevor (Errick Tillar), who was shot and killed. A commemorative painting of Trevor hangs in Dayveon’s home, where he lives with his older sister, Kim (Chasity Moore); his young nephew, LJ (Lachion Buckingham Jr.); and Kim’s boyfriend, Bryan (Dontrell Bright).

Kim and Bryan try to care for Dayveon, but their attention isn’t enough to make him open up, or keep him from joining the local Bloods gang. After Dayveon is “jumped in”— an initiation process where he is attacked by the gang members to prove his toughness — he tells Bryan, who becomes angry that he’s being asked to hide from Kim that her little brother is a new member of the Bloods. “You better be glad I love your sister,” Bryan says.

Soon after Dayveon’s initiation, his friend Brayden (Kordell “KD” Johnson) is jumped in by the same group, including Mook (Lachion Buckingham), who seems most committed to gang life, and Country (Marquell Manning), who still holds out hope of being employed by a local farmer. Dayveon’s friendship with Brayden illustrates the new strange space they inhabit, where innocence and gentleness bleed together with corruption and violence. Together, they talk about girls, eat Doritos, play video games, and skip rocks at the lake, where Dayveon reveals that he doesn’t “fuck with” his dad and that his mom, plagued by night terrors since his brother’s shooting, is “looney toons.” Dayveon talks about his own nightmares—that his brother is texting him, as if they’ve forgotten to pick him up somewhere—and learns from Brayden how to throw up the sign for Bloods with his fingers.

But also together, Dayveon and Brayden help Mook and Country rob a liquor store—the boys’ first “real shit” with the gang. The robbery goes wrong, and Dayveon is hesitant the next day when Mook asks Dayveon to go on a ride with him. Mook tells Dayveon that he likes him, so he’s going to take him under his wing and teach him everything he knows. “I’m trying to help you understand,” Mook says. “You’ve got to be a man.” Mook reveals his own brother’s death, telling Dayveon that he went out and got himself a pistol, found the men responsible, and broke all of their ribs. “They got to feel my pain,” Mook says. “And I’m teaching you that shit so those motherfuckers can feel your pain.”

The talk is also Mook’s priming Dayveon for their second robbery, this time the two of them alone. They hold up a group of men gambling in a warehouse, and Dayveon is surprised to find his sister’s boyfriend there. Afterwards, Dayveon is angry about what he’s been recruited to do and demands that Mook take him home, but Mook makes him stay for a forced celebration. “This is your night,” Mook says, taking them to a strip joint. Dayveon, clearly the youngest among them, takes shot after shot as colorful lights play across his face.

After vomiting into a toilet, Dayveon returns home in the early-morning darkness. Bryan, who recognized Dayveon during last night’s robbery despite his mask, confronts Dayveon just as he’s entering their yard. He accuses Dayveon of setting him up to be robbed and demands that he turn over the gun that he used in the robbery. Dayveon says he doesn’t have it, Bryan shoves him, and Dayveon swears again that the gun is gone. When Dayveon tries to walk away, Bryan stops him. “Listen,” he says. “Look at me, dude. I get it.” He says it over and over until it sinks in. He holds Dayveon in their yard.

The next images are in early daylight: a gun abandoned in the lake, Dayveon staring at the painting of his brother, Country working the farm, Mook splashing his face with water. Brayden watches cartoons, Bryan folds clothes at a laundromat, Kim and LJ play in the woods, and Dayveon looks out through the closed screen door as a hive of bees swarms nearby.

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