CFS brings ‘Stevie’ to movies

Jordan Pohlman

Marking territory on the American filmmaking frontier required Steve James to say goodbye to family and friends in his hometown of Pomona, Ill. During his pilgrimage, he received critical acclaim for the direction of “Prefontaine” and “Hoop Dreams.” Now, James returns home to follow up his previous films with an unintended tour de force -“Stevie,” a documentary about one of Pomona’s most troubled residents.

James returns home to find Stevie Fielding sitting on his front porch in a sleeveless shirt and a knee brace. Stevie’s arms are covered in tattoos, some of which he “doned” himself, and his knee is recovering from when he was fixing his tractor and it fell on him. Some only dream of calling a guy like Stevie their “little brother,” but filmmaker James tries to make this claim legitimately.

James remembers Stevie as a smiling half-witted youngster, but acknowledges that he has always been an “accident waiting to happen.” Despite the fact that Stevie stays busy with constructive hobbies like motorcycling, snake-catching, marijuana and alcohol, he finds the spare time to get into some legal trouble.

But assault and weapons charges seem insignificant compared to the Class -X felony Stevie would be charged with in March 1997. Fortunately for the American spectator, Steve James and his camera crew were there to catch the aftermath of the “accident” on tape.

James admits that his documentary is not helping Stevie’s situation, but it’s hard to slow the momentum of fine art. Especially when the American audience thrives on watching the humiliation of others.

If there’s an audience for an attempted goat-milking by Paris Hilton, a handicapped man in stress should be a success. And folks, put the kids to bed; Stevie’s situation is real.

So what is Stevie’s situation? After being left to babysit his eight-year-old niece, Stevie is accused of sexually molesting the child. Stevie admits that he has broken the law in the past, but claims that he would never hurt a little girl.

Physical evidence shows that the girl was hurt, and it is left up to the viewer to make the call. Stevie was physically and sexually abused as a child, so he fits the M.O. of a predator; however, it is difficult to make a final character judgment about a damaged but seemingly benevolent man.

During the four-year ordeal leading to Stevie’s sentencing, director James captures the situation with accuracy. Stevie’s life is winding down to nothing, and it’s disturbing to watch.

The music and the cinematography are professionally done, but the overall intentions of the film are questionable. Is James trying to capture raw emotion or cash in on the pain of another? Again, the viewer makes the call …

“Stevie” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturdayat 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for students with I.D. and $4 for all others.

The Monday evening showing will feature guest speaker Mark Hauck from the communication department, who will introduce the film and lead a discussion entitled “Spiral of Despair,” following the viewing.

For information, call x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS web page