David McCallum was 16 in 1985 when police charged him with the robbery and murder of Nathan Blenner. Since then he has claimed that he was convicted for a crime he did not commit. McCallum says he was forced to confess by Brooklyn police, had no motive or had ever visited the place where the crime happened. Ray Klonsky was a wannabe filmmaker from Toronto who also got into trouble with the law as a teen. Ray’s father, Ken, was a friend of David’s who had been fighting to get him out of prison. After David writes a teenage Ray an inspiring letter to resist the gang lifestyle, the young documentarian leads an effort to find evidence of a 28-year-old crime, with the hopes of freeing a wrongfully accused man.

David & Me works on two levels: as a riveting true-crime investigation and a tender story of an unlikely friendship. At the start, Klonsky and McCallum – both speaking to their camera – talk about their childhoods. We note the parallels, which explains the close bond that developed. Directors Ray Klonsky and Marc Lamy get a candid interview from McCallum, who represses his pain as he explains how isolated he feels and how hard he has fought to clear his name. However, David & Me is missing some key scenes with McCallum’s family. We yearn to hear about the struggles they faced because of his incarceration.

Like The Thin Blue Line, David & Me is an impassioned doc hoping to reverse a murder charge. Klonsky and Lamy are economical filmmakers, presenting us with evidence through case files, videos, maps and legal documents, without overwhelming us. The filmmakers explain how the only way to get a successful appeal is to search for new evidence. This pursuit of the truth drives the thrilling second half of the doc.

Is David & Me essential festival viewing?

Yes. David & Me is a revealing true-crime drama with a purpose. David McCallum’s story, of a man trying to show resilience behind bars and of a flawed justice system that may have locked up the wrong man, is one that all should know.

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