By Kevin Zimmerman
Filmmaker Rich Devaney is satisfied if after a screening of his short movie “Patrol,” audience members cannot put into words how they feel.
“I wanted it to settle in their stomachs and have the images stay in their heads,” said Devaney. “I wanted to affect them.”
The movie clearly affected the judges of this year’s Chain NYC Film Festival, who awarded “Patrol” best narrative short, best cinematography and best director at its closing night award ceremony last week.
“It was really ambitious and extremely well made,” said Kirk Gostowski, co-founder of the Chain Theatre. “It is really dark. Everyone who saw it is talking about it.”
The 15-minute film follows the actions of two NYPD officers who tread a morally gray area while on their beat.
“Patrol” came about after Devaney — who now lives in Brooklyn after a half dozen years of residing in Sunnyside — read one too many stories about police departments around the country faced with corruption charges, accusations of violence against community residents and even charges of injuring or killing people.
But one night the issue became more than just a bylined story to Devaney.
While filming his first feature, “Brooklyn Bound,” back in 2003, one of the guys helping out on the crew left the set at the end of the day and never returned.
“It was a Sunday and we had worked all day,” said Devaney. “On his way home, he got shot in the back by a cop and died.”
“Patrol” is loosely based on a real incident involving a young woman who, after having one too many drinks one evening, was escorted home by police. She later accused the officers of sexual assaulting her.
In Devaney’s fictionalized account, the audience only sees the two cops — the director steps into the role of the less ethically challenged one — first at a diner then outside of an apartment building.
It is clear something out of the ordinary has happened, but nothing is shown or even stated.
Actually, Devaney opted to use long stretches of silence rather than fill the film with dialogue.
“Silence is almost a character in it,” said Gostkowski.
Devaney also decided to shoot each scene in one take rather than cut between the two officers as they spoke and reacted with each other. He believes by editing clips together the filmmaker encourages the audience to remember they are watching a movie.
Keeping the action rolling and from the same point of view, Devaney actually allows the viewer to be a voyeur, said Gostkowski.
Although something bad, or perhaps even illegal has occurred, Devaney is not interested in creating caricatures of good cop, bad cop.
“I want to humanize these officers,” he said. “They are police officers but they are also men. I want to look at what it is in the mind that breaks that line of morality.”
With the success of “Patrol” in Long Island City, Devaney hopes the film will be accepted into other festivals and receive a wider audience. And he hopes future viewers are conflicted enough after the screening that it prompts them to action.
“Whether it’s more penalties for officers who abuse their powers or more training on how they should react in certain situations,” said Devaney, “something has to change.”