South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival – Directed by Brad Lichtenstein with Snoop Dogg on board as one of its Executive Producers, When Claude Got Shot (2021) offers continued education on the Black experience with the justice system, persistent segregation that leads to lack of opportunity during important developmental years, and how this segregation intrinsically leads to a system of violence and criminal behavior for survival. Screening during SXSW Online 2021 within its “Documentary Spotlight” section, When Claude Got Shot looks at all sides of a shooting, from the victim, to the shooter, and even the makeup of the society surrounding it all.
When Claude Got Shot introduces us to Claudaire “Claude” Motley, a father local to Milwaukee who on one fateful night while sitting in his car was shot during an attempted car-jacking. With the city plagued by a robbery crime ring at the time, Claude’s shooter is only found when he is brought in for a separate shooting, wherefrom he then learns that the perpetrator is a 15-year-old young man. Struggling to finish school, pay his mounting medical bills, and support his family in the aftermath, the film looks at Claude’s case, but also even deeper into the legal system’s lack of support to victims as well as the failure of Milwaukee’s educational system to meet the developmental needs of its youth as a prevention to crime in the first place. The film takes a deep dive into this cycle anecdotally through Claude’s life as well as academically by giving facts and figures, and through tough but necessary conversations about choices and consequences, the film ends on a bittersweet note that is highly emotional and as balanced as the viewpoints that Lichtenstein uses to look into this one local shooting among many.
When Claude Got Shot is not a horror movie, but this documentary details horrifying situations and statistics for Black men in the Milwaukee area. Claude’s wife and lawyer, Kim, says at one point that half of Black men under the age of 35 in Milwaukee are locked up, which is a startling statement that brings to question how and why Black men get there. The film primarily recounts the life and shooting of Claude and only speaks to the shooter, Nathan King, briefly towards the end, however, Nathan’s mother is given ample space to express her anguish throughout the film. Though he is sitting on the side of the defense as a criminal, the documentary also takes the time to address the background of Nathan’s life without a father, and who like so many others, ends up going down the wrong path as a result.
Additionally, the struggle to find pathways out of this city where young Black men are typically only given two choices for survival — sports or gangbanging — is shown through recounting the history of both Claude and Nathan King. Surprisingly, the two share similar stories of coming of age in fatherless homes while seeking better education and sports opportunities in Milwaukee’s shoddy educational system. The audience is shown that one goes through this process begrudgingly while the other, despite his parents’ passive attitude towards education, goes through willingly, and subsequently, the two end up on opposite sides of the same coin. Therefore, though the film addresses the systems that fail these two men, it also really shows that no matter the circumstances life is ultimately about individual choices and consequences.
Not going to lie, When Claude Got Shot had me pretty choked up by its ending, showing a bit of a redemption arch that humanizes all parties involved. The documentary does a great job at showing both sides of a case, the point of view of the victim as well as the point of view from the shooter, and gives sobering numbers on how many Black men end up in the system through criminal activity and the systemic racism and segregation that serve as the catalyst for much of this criminal activity.
When Claude Got Shot reviewed as part of our South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival coverage.
7.25 out of 10
|When Claude Got Shot|
|RATING:||NR||No Trailer Available|
|Runtime:||1 Hr. 36 Mins.|