EXCLUSIVE: For successful attorney Claude Motley, a return home to Milwaukee to attend his high school reunion almost turned fatal. He had just dropped off a friend in a residential neighborhood when his vehicle was surrounded by carjackers. One of them shot him in the face.
The story of Motley’s long recuperation, and what happened to his attacker—a 15-year-old boy—is told in the new film When Claude Got Shot, premiering at SXSW in the Documentary Spotlight section. In the clip below, Claude’s friend remembers the fateful night and what transpired steps from his door.
“I was in the relative safety of my own home while Claude was a few feet away being victimized,” the friend recalls. “My friend could have died that day…He could literally not be here.”
Brad Lichtenstein directed and produced the documentary, executive produced by Snoop Dogg. The film does not fit neatly into the true crime genre; its real focus is on the deeper societal issues attached to the shooting incident. Both victim and assailant were African-American. Both grew up in Milwaukee, a dead-end city for most Black youth.
“Most Black families know, if you have the ability, you’ve got to get your sons out of here,” Motley’s friend notes. “Milwaukee preys upon young Black men. There are very few that grow up in this environment and become successful.”
Nathan King, the teenager accused of gunning down Motley, was paralyzed in a shooting that took place the same weekend he attempted to carjack Claude.
“Diverted from his legal career, Claude must persist through multiple surgeries…and stress on his family while remaining engaged in the criminal justice journey determining his shooter’s fate,” the filmmakers write. “Torn between punishment and the injustice of mass incarceration of young Black men, Claude reflects on his own life and its similarity to Nathan’s. As he struggles to heal, mentally and physically, he ultimately discovers that the path to recovery leads to forgiveness.”
When Claude Got Shot is a production of 371 Productions, Black Public Media, ITVS, Stick Figure Entertainment, and Snoopadelic Pictures. Lichtenstein produced, along with Steven Cantor and Jamie Schutz. It premieres Wednesday, March 17 at SXSW.
Watch the clip here: