The story told in Brian Banks is unfortunately all too familiar. The eponymous biopic, directed by Tom Shadyac, chronicles the true story of the All-American football player who had committed to USC by his junior year, then had his life upended when he was falsely accused and convicted of rape, to being exonerated, and finally reaching his goal of playing in the NFL.
Throughout his 10-years in the prison system, a sentence he received despite the lack of evidence to support the accusation, Banks never wavered in maintaining his innocence. Ultimately, with the help of Justin Brooks and the California Innocence Project, Banks’ conviction was overturned in 2012, his name was cleared, and he was finally free to pursue his NFL dreams.
Speaking at the 25th annual Essence Festival in New Orleans, Banks described the film as a “full circle” moment. “It’s really surreal to have gone through such a traumatic experience… to come full circle and be here now with the opportunity this share this story. For Banks, the goal was to “not only to get our story out there but to share this story for other people who are currently voiceless, who are experiencing a similar situation.”
He continued, “For every young person of color who has had an encounter with a police officer or has been miscategorized or judged, this is one of those films where we talk about a real-life story that so many people can connect to and relate to. We need more stories like these, real-life stories turned into art so that we can learn.”
“I knew the film had the potential to be so impactful,” said Hodge. “I wanted the audience to be inspired by Brian the way I was inspired by his triumph.”
Later expounding on that, Hodge added, “This brother went from 10 years in the prison system to coming out and achieving his goal of playing in the NFL, he lauded. “That was so profound because he never allowed himself to become broken. He never lost faith in who he was and the potential of his future… there is always a future if we choose it just like this man chose his.”
Shepherd, known for her comedic chops as an actress, flexed her dramatic muscles in the role of Banks’ mother Leomia, a role that the mother of a 14-year-old son found easy to connect with. “Her faith, her spirituality, how she advocated for her son, that is what struck me,” she said, later adding, “If you have children, the part that you play in your child’s life, it’s not what you say, it is those actions, it’s what you do.”
Greg Kinnear, Melanie Liburd, Xosha Roquemore, and Tiffany Dupont also star in the film, which will hit theaters August 9 via Bleecker Street.