Civil: Ben Crump Review: A Year in the Life of Black America’s Attorney General

Civil: Ben Crump is a Netflix observational documentary released on 19 June 2022 or the Juneteenth. The documentary follows civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who often represents marginalized clients in wrongful death, injury, police brutality and discrimination lawsuits. The release of the film on Juneteenth is special as the day marks the anniversary of the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved African Americans in Texas.

The day was first recognized as a federal holiday in June 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. The film shows the attorney fighting for the same freedom from discrimination of the black people. The film is directed by Nadia Hallgren and produced by Kenya Barris, Roger Ross Williams and Lauren Cioffi.

The film has a runtime of about 1 hour and 41 minutes. The film first premiered at the Tribeca Festival and opened at the American Black Film Festival recently.

Netflix’s synopsis of the documentary reads:

Ben Crump, also known as “Black America’s attorney general,” pulls back the curtain on his life as a family man and civil rights leader.

-Civil: Ben Crump Review Does Not Contain Any Spoilers-

Who is Ben Crump?

Benjamin Lloyd Crump is an American attorney who specializes in civil rights and catastrophic personal injury cases such as wrongful death lawsuits. He represents people in civil lawsuits in order to seek financial compensation for harm or wrongdoings. He is also the founder of the firm Ben Crump Law of Tallahassee in Florida. He is known for taking on high-profile cases for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Black farmers and the people poisoned during the Flint water crisis to name a few.

A Significant Year of Trials and Justice

The film starts off with a phone call from George Floyd’s sister, asking for help. The whole film is based on this case’s premise which is a high-profile case that made Ben known internationally. He says that he receives at least 500 such calls from the people who want a black lawyer to represent them, as he could understand their pain much better without any partiality.

The film follows a verité style of filmmaking, which is essentially an observational documentary without any narration as we follow our subjects closely in their life. It was filmed in a span of one year from 2020 to 2021 and consists of some of the cases that Crump took over in that period.

The lawyer’s life is always on the move. He is either on the phone, travelling, organizing or talking to families while trying to maintain his personal life. While he is trying to help people in need, who have gone through various tragic events, Ben himself is not able to spend much time with his family and misses many moments which is told to him through video calls usually.

still from Civil: Ben Crumps

Initially, he started his career with his college mate Daryl Parks as a lawyer specialising in personal injury and accidental death lawsuits which, according to him, garners more income and funded enough money for them to take up civil rights cases. Although he came to be known for high-profile cases dealing with police brutality, they only make up 5-10% of all the cases that he takes. Others include suing hospitals or banks for discriminating against people of colour.

Ben Crump says that he doesn’t have the authority to arrest someone or punish them for their crimes. All that he can do is get compensation for their wrongdoings which will give the message that there are consequences to their actions and they would think twice before committing them again.

But it isn’t all praise that comes his way, many media outlets and lawyers call him an instigator who plays the race card and gets rich by pimping people on it. He even receives many death threats on a daily basis that he needs a bodyguard at all times and even at times walking to the courthouse can be seen as endangering his life.

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Still of Ben Crumps

Final Thoughts

Civil: Ben Crump on Netflix shows what goes behind the life of the civil lawyer. How he feels helpless at times taking up cases after cases of people, who he gets to know only after their death. But he tries to put his best foot forward in hopes of getting justice for the ones that have left and their grieving family. The film ended on a happy note with the final verdict of the historical case of the late George Floyd against the city of Minneapolis.

The film is a compilation of various cases that are still ongoing but the only lacking point is that we don’t see the complete process of what goes behind the case. For the audience who is not familiar with the law and court proceedings, it would have been a better perspective to give about the legal process of a case from taking it up, to finding evidence and investigation.

Overall, the documentary is raising awareness and we hope not just Ben Crump but many more people like him would come forward to help the people against the injustices faced by them on the basis of race or colour.

Civil: Ben Crump is streaming on Netflix.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Overall

SUMMARY

Civil: Ben Crump is a documentary on Netflix that follows the life of civil lawyer Ben Crumps.

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Civil: Ben Crump Review: A Year in the Life of Black America's Attorney GeneralCivil: Ben Crump is a documentary on Netflix that follows the life of civil lawyer Ben Crumps.