Based on a popular crime-blotter column from a Seattle alt-weekly, Robinson Devor's Police Beat is an innovative and daringly original film which attempts to depict the internal landscape of its unique protagonist in a vivid and impressionistic manner.
The film tracks a man nicknamed Z for nearly a week. He is a recent Muslim immigrant from Senegal who has found work in Seattle as a bicycle cop. His job involves managing, reporting and eventually logging the wide variety of crime scenes he comes across on a daily basis (all based on actual Seattle police reports). While Z is well familiar with all the "crime-codes" he needs for his logs, he doesnt have a solution for his own dilemma: hes concerned about the fact that his white American girlfriend (only seen via Zs flashbacks) has gone on a camping trip with her male roommate. Fearing the worst, Zs emotional state gradually deteriorates, especially after she fails to contact him like she promised to do.
Devor expertly channels his protagonists inner thought process while maintaining his sense of being as an individual. Z communicates with others in English, of course, but like any new immigrant he thinks in his native language -- in this case, Wolof, which we hear while reading the translation. The director also shows Zs detachment to the world around him as even the most gruesome of crimes fail to draw his attention, perhaps for the best even though what he suffers from might be the worst case of all.
Police Beat is shot with a 35mm anamorphic lens, which not only makes the film look extremely elegant (and thus expensive -- the budget however was only around $200K), but it allows the filmmakers to extract a dreamy, evocative ambiance from Seattle's distinctive atmosphere and topography. The soundtrack, mostly culled form the local music scene, is also richly detailed and expansive.
Z is gracefully played by Pape Sidy Niang, a newcomer who was once a professional soccer player in his native Senegal. By projecting the right amount of innocence and intelligence, he allows his character to continually evolve -- much like what the film does, because it ends being something one wouldnt have expected it to be: moving.
*POLICE BEAT is now available on DVD in the U.S. from Image Ent. No extra features.
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