How far would one go to seek justice? The action thriller short film Day of Vengeance, directed by Derek Johnson, asks just that.
In what should have been an open-and-shut case, a white supremacist leader Emmett (Chris Durant) appears to be getting away with murder. But before the trial can play itself out, Moses (Reginald Harper), a gun-toting vigilante, decides to take the law into his own hands.
Armed with a shotgun and the doctrine of Christianity, Moses is the shooter in the building (ala Grey’s Anatomy season 6 finale). Aptly named, Moses works as the ‘hand of God’ who invokes punishment for alleged legal wrongdoing.
Like many who wait for redemption through the law’s due process, Moses becomes frustrated with the justice system.
He goes on a hunch that he would not find justice in the legal system. And rather than leave the verdict to the litigators in stiff suits or the conservative elder behind the bench, he seeks truth in the only way that he can command attention.
Lingering questions persist… Would the jury have convicted Emmett? Is a conviction – even one of life imprisonment – adequate punishment for a brutal murder? Is only the suspected murderer at fault or also the employees at the law firm who defended him?
The film presents Moses as a multi-dimensional character and delves into the humanity of the killer. Moses grants mercy onto those who he believes deserve it and ultimately won’t shoot unless Emmett confesses to the crime.
The treatment of Emmett’s character isn’t as complex. Emmett is caricatured as a white racist who is decidedly stuck in the past. He refers to his black defense attorney (Edward Bryan) as “boy” and “my n*gger,” he wears a swastika arm band, and he hangs a confederate flag banner behind his soapbox.
Day of Vengeance is arguably one of the most racially charged films since John Singleton’s Rosewood. Flickers of hangings and Klan gatherings show that racism is not just a relic of the past. America’s overtly racist past is interspersed with its contemporary racially-conflicted present. Yet, just like the underrated Singleton and Rosewood, director Derek Johnson might find trouble appealing to audiences or distributors who prefer to turn a blind eye to America’s flaming racial past and present.
The “no-budget” independent movie was shot in Atlanta with limited resources.
Derek and Addam shot without a crew. Food was donated; the main location was borrowed. The cast was made up of local actors working for free. Post-production on the film took over TWO YEARS, partly because Addam and Derek insisted on a professional musical score and sound mixing. With hardly any budget, they allowed the composers and sound designer to work on the film around their busy schedules.
They met the sound designer/composer (Arles Estes) and music composers (Lance & Leon) via a Craigslist ad and watched online training videos and learned how to do the editing, color-grading, and special FX compositing themselves.
Says Director/co-writer Derek Johnson:
“We LOVE our movie Day of Vengeance. But imagine it with a crew. Imagine it with a real DP… and a real budget. Imagine it with Hollywood special effects. That’s our goal for next time.”
Day of Vengeance is currently playing in film festivals around the U.S.
Director: Derek Johnson
Writers: Derek Johnson, Addam Martin
Stars: Reginald Harper, Edward Bryan, Chris Durant, Simon Kornblit, Tabitha Christopher
Production: Octane Movie Productions