BRIAN BANKS – Review by Diana Saenger

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I really like true stories and after seeing this film I could really feel the pain of what happened to Brian Banks. Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge) was like many of his age in at Long Beach High School in California. He was definitely a potential professional football player. This was his dream and a sure possibility until he met the wrong girl at school. They met walking down the hall,, looked at each other and ducked into a little secret place where they talked. Brian stepped out to continue on his journey at school.

Banks was recruited by almost every Division I college in the nation and had given a verbal commitment to USC, where he was set to play on a full scholarship. While waiting to get on the team Brian learned the young girl had reported to the police that he had raped her against her will. No matter how he claimed that never happened he was in prison for 11 years. Unfortunately it was during the time of the MeToo era which didn’t bring much interest or help to prove that the incident never happened.

A lawyer persuaded him to accept a plea deal then he was shocked to receive a six-year prison term, followed by the requirement to register as a sex offender and wear a monitoring device for the length of his parole. That drastically limited his employment opportunities and also his dreams of a pro football player.

Along with his mother (Sherri Shepherd) and family that prayed for him, he also prayed for himself in prison. Years later he got lucky as the girl confessed he never raped her. Partly due to the female attorney in the California Innocence Project office in San Diego urged them to help Brian. Eventually learning more about his case they decided to take him in and prove that never happened.

It was an incredible battle for his lawyer Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear) Brooks went out of his way to find an answer. In an interview, Kinnear told me he was emotionally attached to this story and really wanted to help Brian.

“I think it’s important and extremely critical that we continue to share stories like mine,” said Brian Banks, now 34-years old. “These are stories of injustice within a flawed system, and this system has to be held accountable for these experiences that people are going through.”

“I think we can all agree that regardless of your race, your religion, your ethnic background, nobody deserves to go to prison for something that they didn’t do. No one deserves to be in a cage for a crime they did not commit,” added Banks.

The eleven years Banks spent in prison were a horrific loss. Thanks to the California Innocence Project’s successful battle, Banks was vindicated, paroled and able to restart his career.

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Diana Saenger

Diana Saenger, entertainment editor of the East County Gazette, also reviews film and theater for San Diego Suburban newspapers, her Saenger Syndicate sites and and others. A 2008 "Woman of the Year" for CA's 77th District, roving film historian and author of 3 books, she has interviewed more than 400 A-list celebrities and filmmakers.