“Everyone is guilty”

The above quote is the tagline for the new film from Omar and Ibrahim Ashmawey, Boiling Pot and while the story arc  is framed by the interrogation of four people over a murder, the culpability extends far past any courtroom. Boiling Pot does not simply discuss racism. Boiling Pot encircles every one who sets foot in front of the camera or watches the hour and 45 minute film, in a complex system of culpability and self-examination. In the film, Valerie Davis (Danielle Fishel), Hazem Seif (Ibrahim Ashmawey), Rose Terrance (Davetta Sherwood), Tremayne Torrance (Kyle Sherwood) deal with recent racial tensions on the campus brought on by a mock lynching on the school lawn.

Set in 2008, during President Barack Obama’s presidential race, Boiling Pot is based on actual events, primarily the 2010 “Compton Cookout” held by University of California, San Diego which mocked Black History Month with guests instructed to dress “ghetto”. The acting in the film is outstanding overall with Danielle Fishel, better known as Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World fame, taking the wide-eyed optimism of Topanga and shattering it with a  dramatic performance that is her finest acting to date. The film is plagued at time with overacting in spots, which appeared to be a byproduct of the verbose scriptwriting and depth of its message.

“Change yourself to adapt to the world or make your world adapt to you”-Valerie Davis (played by Danielle Fischel in Boiling Pot)

In this film, hypocrisy is not treated as a signifier of a bad person, but as an almost innate mechanism employed unconsciously by characters. Valerie’s father, Tim Davis antagonized her fiancé Hazem over his nationality, which Valerie’s mother and sister quietly aided. The scene prior was of Valerie playfully speaking Arabic to Hazem. Subtlety such as that are the crux of Boiling Pot‘s genius; its ability to show how institutionalized racism is so deep-rooted that even its opponents use racist remarks. There are times in the movie when the mastermind behind the racist events, Alexander Krause (David Menich) and his racially insensitive remarks held validity on a human level and you have to actively remind yourself that he is the villain. But by the time the movie reaches its final act, you realize there are no villains and heroes in this film.

Just people.

That same brilliant scriptwriting by the Ashmawey brothers is one of the few flaws of the film as the heavy-handed approach to delivering a message borders on preachy didacticism at times. The most glaring example is in the final montage of the movie involves its characters stating various quotes about racism. While it ties in the overarching theme of the universality of racism and how “everyone is guilty”, it felt like as if the Ashmawey brothers felt compelled to ensure the viewer understood their message.

During the live Q&A at MIST Cinemas in Harlem, New York, Ibrahim Ashmawey informed the crowd that himself, his brother Omar and other members of his family had to finance the entire movie due to lack of funding. According to Ibrahim, multiple film festivals, including the American Black Film Festival refused to showcase the film in its current form unless it removed certain scenes, primarily the graphic montage of actual lynchings. According to Ashmawey, an unnamed distributor has agreed to get their movie into 800 theaters across the country for $200,000.

$200,000 (the price of some rappers’ watches) should not be a roadblock in having the world see this searing and gripping examination of the continued that makes 12 Years a Slave seem like a PBS special.

Executive producers of the film include Mike Singh, Andrew Luu, Carmen Wong, and Russell Curry whom was also the assistant producer. Keep updated on future screenings and news about The Boiling Pot at their official website, Facebook and follow their Twitter account @BoilingPotMovie.

Check out members of the Boiling Pot cast speaks on the film below: