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BWW Review: Sedona International Film Festival Presents FOSTER BOY ~ Directors' Choice Award For Best Feature Film, Drama

BWW Review: Sedona International Film Festival Presents FOSTER BOY ~ Directors' Choice Award For Best Feature Film, Drama

In October 2017, the U.S. Senate's Committee on Finance issued a stunning report on its investigation into the practices of private providers of foster care services. Despite the policies and procedures of State child welfare agencies to monitor performance and outcomes, they "are not always followed; exceptions are made...; profits are prioritized over children's well-being, and sometimes those charged with keeping children safe look the other way...Foster parents with questionable backgrounds, who lack the skills to provide care to vulnerable children, are given licenses to parent challenging children, and these children are then inadequately monitored." The corresponding statistics on abuse and mortality in the foster care system are staggering.

Beyond the politics and data related to the American system of foster care and its deficiencies is the human dimension of the crisis, captured with gut-wrenching intensity in the 2019 film, FOSTER BOY.

Based on his own experience as a children's rights attorney, screenwriter and producer Jay Paul Deratany and director Youssef Delara have delivered a profoundly moving and superbly acted drama about a young man victimized by the system and a high-powered corporate attorney begrudgingly assigned to be his advocate.

Matthew Modine gives a sterling and nuanced performance as Michael Trainer, a man fully absorbed in his own importance and success, the cost of which is a failed marriage and an absence of social conscience. The portrayal of his evolution from hybris to vulnerability, from defiance to compassion, is riveting and merits two-thumbs-up for Modine.

Trainer fits the profile of one of Tom Wolfe's self-regarded masters of the Universe ~ that is until, one more powerful than he, the master of the courtroom, Judge George Taylor (the marvelous Louis Gossett, Jr.) assigns him to the case of Jamal Randolph (Shane Paul McGhie).

Jamal, with the support of his former foster and now adoptive parents (Michael Hyatt and Michael Beach) is suing the for-profit corporation that has been contracted by the state to provide his foster care. He is determined to get justice for the travesty that he has suffered ~ the years-on-end abuse and rape by a known sex offender whom the corporation placed with the Randolphs. No accident, the placement was done with the full knowledge of the company's senior manager, Pamela Dupree (Julie Benz). Why, such willful negligence? Because, as the story unfolds, we learn that the Duprees of the world have a financial incentive to foster multiple placements.

While Trailer is eager to dismiss the case and get back to his business, Jamal is a force to be reckoned with ~ unwilling to settle, untrusting of the man whom he sees as merely a three-piece-suit, and so emotionally paralyzed by the trauma of his abuse that he is silent and seething on the witness stand.

There is a moment in the film when the impasse between Jamal and Trailer is broken. At the urging of Trailer's new assistant (Lex Scott Davis), he visits Jamal in jail and asks that he read the verses from his diaries ~ a chronicle of this young man's suffering.

There are moments thereafter in this film that are heart-pounding and heart -warming. Delara keeps the pace of the action taut. As courtroom drama, it stands with the best. As a human drama, it proclaims the possibility of empathy among those held hostage by stereotypes. As a political drama, it unremittingly exposes the excesses of corporate powers that will go to any lengths to preserve their privilege.

Outstanding supporting performances round out this film ~ those mentioned above as well as Evan Handler as the self-assured defense attorney; Amy Brenneman as Trainer's ex-wife; Jordan Belfi as the second chair who abandons Trainer when the chips seem down; and Dominic Burgess as Dan Cohen, the caseworker who knows the truth and upon whose shoulders falls the future of the case.

However, it is Shane Paul McGhie's tour de force performance as Jamal that will linger in the mind long after the credits. Bravo!

FOSTER BOY is a film of conscience, offering hope in the possibility of justice, reconciliation, and reform. A must-see!

FOSTER BOY, tied for the Festival's Directors' Choice Award For Best Feature Film~Drama, is one of the features at this year's Sedona International Film Festival.

Photo credit to Foster Boy Movies

Sedona International Film Festival ~ ~ 928-282-1177 ~ Saturday, February 22nd through Sunday, March 1st.

Purchase passes at

Multiple venues: Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. Highway 89A; Harkins Theatres, 2081 W. Highway 89A; Sedona Performing Arts Center, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road

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