As people flocked to see hundreds of films during the Tallahassee Film Festival over the last five days, there was one in particular that created buzz throughout the city: “Beating Justice: The Martin Lee Anderson Story.”
Anderson, 14, was beaten to death by several officers while incarcerated at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Boot Camp, a youth detention center in Panama City.
As footage was exposed of him being beaten by the officers, national outrage was sparked, leaving many people to question the actions and motives of the officers.
“It’s a tragedy that just won’t go away,” Andy Opel, director, said of his inspiration for the film.
As the premiere neared, Benjamin Crump of the Parks & Crump Law Firm, who spearheaded the lawsuit against the camp from Anderson’s family; Gina Jones, Anderson’s mother, and Dale Landry, president of the NAACP chapter in Tallahassee, entered the theatre and took their seats.
Throughout the film, the audience sat seething as people watched the body of young Anderson being mutilated by the guards. The emotions of the audience ran high: a few cried; some shook their head in disbelief and covered their mouths from shock as each officer on trial was found not guilty.
“This film brought to light the racial and social problems that are constantly being swept under the rug,” said Jesse Cohen, a second-year sociology student from Tallahassee. “Martin Lee Anderson died so others can live.”
After the premiere, the audience participated in a Q&A session with Crump.
“We will continue to pray through this very challenging time,” Crump said. “Watching this film brings back so many memories and makes you pissed all over again.”
The state legislature approved a $5 million settlement in 2007 for the family. The sheriff’s office settled separately with the family for $2.4 million.
Opel added that the purpose of the documentary was to bring to light a case that did not receive enough exposure.
“Our job is just beginning,” Opel said. “Justice shall prevail.”