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Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse

Heartbreaking and incendiary in equal measures, Portland filmmaker Brian Lindstrom’s documentary plays out like a horror film and leaves you absolutely breathless. The story is one familiar to most Portlanders: In 2006, James Chasse, crippled by schizophrenia but by all accounts harmless, was beaten by Portland police, died in custody and was the subject of a massive cover-up that portrayed him as a monster. Lindstrom’s film pieces together eyewitness accounts and courtroom footage to forge an amazing piece of documentary journalism that’s equally focused on the procedural account of Chasse’s death and the people whose lives it affected. Everybody except the officers whose fists sealed Chasse’s fate offer their remembrances, though officers Kyle Nice, Bret Barton and Christopher Humphreys do appear in archival footage of their trial (each refused to be interviewed). But what really hammers Alien Boy home is not how he died but how he lived. After Chasse was slain, police falsely labeled him a transient junkie. Lindstrom’s film dives deeply into the life of a man who touched countless lives through the pioneering position he held in Portland’s early punk-rock scene. Ex-girlfriends, family members, musicians, artists and parishioners from his church all tell of a deeply troubled but caring man whose mental despair robbed him of peace. This human setup makes Alien Boy’s outcome all the more difficult, and Humphreys’ smug apathy and on-record lies all the more infuriating. Chasse was starting to slip through the cracks, but before he fell, his life was extinguished by those charged with protecting him. Lindstrom does a tremendous job showing what we lost as Chasse lay dying on a Pearl District sidewalk: not just a life, but our confidence in those sworn to serve and protect.

Special Note

Cinema 21
  • Genres: Crime drama, Documentary
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Critic's Score: A
  • Directed by: Brian Lindstrom [Director], Matthew Davis [Screenwriter], Jason Renaud [Producer], Andrew Saunderson [Producer], Charlie Campbell [Original Music], John Campbell [Cinematographer], Brian Lindstrom [Film Editor]
  • Watch the trailer

Show Times

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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