American Boy is a short film about 10 year old Alex Lopez the day his life changes forever. It depicts a brutal moment familiar from the news, yet rarely seen on film. It was written, produced and directed by Audrey Arkins.
We meet Alex as he rushes out of bed in the hopes of catching his Mom before she leaves for work. But he’s too late. Maria is an overworked single parent who has to leave the house by 5 a.m., but not before she’s prepared all the food her two kids will need for the day. Maria would much prefer to stay closer to home, to the kids, but she has no choice. With their Dad incarcerated, taking care of the family is all on her.
Leaving Alex worries Maria greatly. She knows he’s sensitive. Too gentle for the harsh world he’s landed into. Alex idolizes his bigger, tougher, twelve-year-old brother, JUAN, and is shocked to discover him hiding under the covers, all bloody and battered from mysterious injuries sustained when he snuck out of the house during the night. Tenderly but clumsily, Alex helps treat Juan’s wounds, gets him cleaned up enough so they can start out for school. Alex can’t fathom why Juan is so happy, even proud he was beaten up. “It’s how it goes when you get ‘jumped in’ to a gang,” Juan explains. None of what Juan explains makes sense to Alex who can’t believe that anyone would volunteer to take such a bad beating, and from their own friends!!!
As they get closer to school…
…Alex sees Juan’s bravado evaporate at the sight of Victor, an older neighbor kid from a rival gang cycling toward them. Suddenly, it’s clear that Victor is coming for Juan. In a flash he produces a cheap 9 millimeter, sprays him with bullets.
Alex is the only witness. He heeds Juan’s last words to “RUN!” Will he make it to safety? Will anyone come to help? Does anybody, anywhere care enough to stop these kids becoming just another gang statistic? To some, Juan’s death will mean one less future felon off the streets – because one young immature fatherless boy signed up for the life. But what about Alex?
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