DIRECTOR: Steve James
in 1982 steve james became an "advocate big brother" to stevie fielding. in 1995, he went back to see what had happened to stevie and his family since he had left. what began as an idea for a simple film profile, became a four and a half year chronicle - as unanticipated events transpired that lead the film down a path steve probably never expected. it also served to pull him into the film more than he had probably intended as well.
one type of documentary film making involves the film makers not being a part of the film. they are to document the subject, but stay as removed as possible. Stevie is not one of those films. steve james is almost as much a part of the movie as his subject, stevie, is.
one of the reasons steve james went back to make this movie in the first place was because of the guilt he felt for having left. sure, he had to move on with his life and such, but part of him always felt like he had let stevie down when he left and didn't stay in contact like he had planned. so, you get the sense from the beginning that this project is important to james on a very personal - and of course partly selfish level. and i don't think he would deny that. but, the personal nature of the project also makes it so interesting.
and his direct involvement with the subject, stevie, is taken to a whole other level when stevie is accused and arrested for a very serious crime. james wants to help, but he is also disturbed by what stevie has been accused of doing. there are a lot of voice overs throughout the film as james tells us about what he is thinking and feeling and you can feel/hear him fighting an internal battle with when to help and when to let things play out as they are. and looking back, i wonder if he feels he did the right thing?
besides the steve and stevie relationship and the story that follows stevie's arrest, the film is also a really interesting look at how some kids just never get the help they need and deserve.
stevie had a really hard life growing up and it really seemed like no one knew how to help him or cared enough to try. the one foster family that he had and loved left him cause they had to - and after that things continued to go downhill. one of the most powerful moments in the movie is when james takes stevie to visit those initial foster parents all these years later and you can see how much they meant to him. they are really wonderful people and stevie really is a different person when he is with them. who knows what could have been....
the films look at stevie's past and all the crap that he has been through, does not come across, or at least it didn't to me, as making excuses for what he did. it would have been easy, on one side, to just blame his childhood or, on the other side, to completely villainize him. but, it didn't feel like the film did either. although, i think many people will have different opinions on that depending on where they are personally coming from as they overlay their own experiences and beliefs onto the movie.