The 904: Shadow of the Sunshine State is a documentary about Jacksonville, which has the highest rate of violent crime of any city in Florida. It includes victims of violence sharing how their lives have been affected, a former prisoner relating the difficulties of getting a job after incarceration, and a handful of social workers and theorists both trying to explain violence’s origins and offer ideas for how violent crime could be reduced.
It is a documentary full of good intentions, and I can’t imagine anyone who actually watches it giving it a bad review. But neither can I imagine anyone seeking it out on the basis of a good review.
If I have a small quibble, it is that I’m not sure the film explores the “Why Jacksonville?” question. Violence is bad, but do those suffering under its effects differ from place to place? Do ex-convicts trying to reintegrate into society face discrimination in Georgia, Maine, or Oregon?
Conversely if there is a pleasant surprise it is how much the interviewees cling to a measured hope that change might be possible or that small efforts are worth pursuing even in the face of sweeping social trends. Beverly McClain is as close as we get to a central figure here. McClain works to help grieving families, having experienced the death of her own son from gun violence. Many of the film’s participants tell a similar story: they aren’t sure what they would have done if Beverly had not been there to counsel and comfort them.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists the film’s run time as sixty-six minutes, while the current Amazon release says fifty-seven. While such discrepancies are not particularly uncommon between versions of films that play at festivals and later appear on DVD, nine minutes constitutes nearly twenty percent of the film’s run time. This review was based on a longer version of the film, so it is possible, though not likely in my experience, the new cut is substantively different. (To cite examples of the types of edits that are sometimes made, the festival version of Hot Coffee had suggested consumer actions over the final credits that did not appear when the film screened on HBO. At times television shows change music selections when an episode is released on DVD because problems arise clearing the music.)
The film was released by Cinedigm on February 4 for viewing on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox , PlayStation, Google Play and YouTube.