Search:     FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2020
Michael Skolnik & Rebecca Chaiklin
84 minutes
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Lockdown, USA

In 1973, New York State enacted the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which are the harshest drug control measures ever passed in any democratic nation. President Reagan declared the National “War on Drugs” in 1982 and cited The Rockefeller Laws as the model for new drug regulations. By 1983, 48 states had passed drug control measures based on the Rockefeller Drug Laws. These laws have resulted in the US prison population quadrupling and prisons becoming a thriving, profitable industry. There are currently over two million people behind bars in America. One out of every 38 Americans is currently in prison or on parole and or probation. The US now spends over $100,000,000 dollars a week building new prisons.

LOCKDOWN, USA is a feature documentary set on the front lines of the dramatic campaign to end the “War on Drugs” and repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The film follows Wanda Best, whose husband was sentenced 15 years to life, as a first time non-violent drug offender. She is now raising five children on her own. The documentary interweaves the story of the Best family with a behind the scenes look at Hip Hop Impresario, Russell Simmons’ colorful, unorthodox campaign to reform the Drug Laws.

In the fall of 2001, Darrell Best was convicted of possession of cocaine. Darrell had been doing handy work at his uncle’s house and signed for a Fed-Ex that was addressed to a neighbor. The package contained a pound of cocaine. The District Attorney offered Darrell Best a one-year plea bargain, if he admitted guilt. Darrell refused to take the plea, insisting on his innocence and claiming he wanted to set an example of integrity and honesty for his children. The Judge apologized as he read Darrell Best his sentence, 15 years to life; the minimum sentence he could give Darrell under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The film will bare witness to the devastating impact Darrell’s incarceration has had on his family and the noble fight his wife Wanda has launched, in an effort to bring him home. In the spring of 2003, the Best family got a glimmer of hope. An unusual Coalition, helmed by Russell Simmons, assembled to fight the “War on Drugs” and declared that the first battle would be to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The film follows Russell Simmons as he orchastrates a high profile campaign, to raise awareness around the Rockefeller Drug Laws, with the intention of creating tremendous public pressure, forcing the politicians to enact reform. Russell recruits high profile artists such as P Diddy, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Tim Robbins to join the campaign and speak out on the issue; he rallies tens of thousands of people and works throughout the night in heated behind the scenes negotiations with New York State Governor George Pataki and the State’s top politicians. The question remains, will they be able to make a deal? LOCKDOWN, USA captures the stranger than fiction, historic series of events as they have unfolded; where the political establishment has been forced to reconcile with the burgeoning power of hip-hop.

“Simmons’ battles to raise awareness about the destructive impact of these laws.“
- New York Times

“LOCKDOWN, U.S.A, … is both a fierce ‘j’accuse’ against the Rockefeller drug laws and a semi-intimate portrait of the nascent political clout exhibited by Hip-Hop Nation.”
- Newsday

“Loaded with stars like 50 Cent and Mariah Carey—to get the word out, raise public awareness and try to get the laws reformed.“

  • Special Jury Award, Cinequest Festival, 2007

  • Screenings
  • Tribeca Film Festival, New York, 2006
  • Silverdocs Documentary Festival, 2006

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    Michael Skolnik & Rebecca Chaiklin
    84 minutes
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