On Sunday, March 11, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center continues its American Values Series with a film screening and discussion with Oscar-winning director, William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection). The film, The People vs Paul Crump, is Friedkin’s first (1962) and covers the story of Chicagoan and prisoner Paul Crump who was serving a death sentence for the murder of a security guard during an attempted robbery in 1953.
The film falls into the category of “true crime documentary” as it depicts reenactments of the crime and includes Crump’s recounting of events and his subsequent confession to police. The People vs Paul Crump was originally made to air on a television station, but after the final product was viewed, the station decided it would be too controversial to air.
Despite this rejection, Friedkin persisted and succeeded in having Otto Kerner, the governor of Chicago at the time, view it. His film arguably left a mark on Kerner who, after viewing it, commuted Crump’s sentence from death to life in prison. Crump eventually died in prison in 2002, after having served 39 years. Much like contemporary true crime documentaries, this earlier work will have the audience considering the guilt or innocence of the criminal, as well as the motivations and opinions of Friedkin not only then, but now.
The thought-provoking nature of such a work captures the essence of this American Values Series, which was created to spark discourse about what it means to be American and what American values “look like in action.” The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center believes this rarely viewed film is relevant given the Black Lives Matter Movement that was conceived in 2013.
“We always envisioned our American Values series as a program that would include a wide range of films and reflect how cinema can entertain, inspire and promote exciting discussion,” explained Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, head of the Sag Harbor Cinema Programming Committee. “The People vs. Paul Crump, William Friedkin’s groundbreaking and rarely seen debut, is another example of such range. We are thrilled and very grateful that a director of Mr. Friedkin’s stature has agreed to join us from his home in California in support of the campaign for the Sag Harbor Cinema”.
The conversation with Friedkin will take place via Skype, following the screening of his 60-minute, TV movie at the Pierson High School auditorium. The free screening is at 2 p.m. and is the second to last of this series. The final event will be a screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing on Sunday, March 18 and discussion with film programmer Ashley Clark.
Pierson High School is located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. For more information about Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center or to register for events such as this one, please visit www.sagharborcinema.org.