Civil: Ben Crump review – lessons in modern day civility

June 13, 2022
M.N. Miller 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service


Civil is an eye-opening and thought-provoking piece with the camera on modern-day America’s pulse.

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Civil is an eye-opening and thought-provoking piece with the camera on modern-day America’s pulse.

Netflix documentary Civil: Ben Crump will be released on the streaming service on June 19th, 2022.

I would never call Civil a puff piece. Far from it, as I’m sure some of the more cynical or even conservative may claim. Mr. Crump puts the “civil” in civil rights and civil litigation. He is a prominent litigator specializing in civil court cases for those who have violated their civil rights. This man is not a stereotypical attorney many may describe as an ambulance chaser. Sure, he knows how to work a camera and the room. Yes, he is successful, but he operates from a select lens with a direct point of view. In one of his many appearances in front of the media, he sums this up for us perfectly. How can thousands of armed white citizens storm the capital without one fatality because of selected restraint, but young black men are shot first, and questions are asked later?

Now, to be fair, according to FactCheck.Org, there was one person, a 35-year-old woman named Ashli Babbit, who was shot and killed by a Capital police officer that day. However, that does not take away from the point I am about to make. There is a reason the civil path is such a viable option in our justice system, and one deserves a lawyer that will go beyond the means necessary to advocate for their clients. We have a romanticized notion of most lawyers. Many will think of Atticus Finch, the typical archetype of a white savior character (who took a startling turn when Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was discovered). Still, when the choice is to sue someone for pain and suffering, does nobility go out the window?

For one, the attorneys paid by the government are not your lawyer. The other is, as Mr. Crump knows, the one proper way to change something may not be within the system anymore. It creates meaningful change when the people in power don’t look like you. So, in turn, they won’t care about you, and there is a need for the threat of financial restitution. To illustrate this point, he says, “I want to make it financially unsustainable for them to continue to kill Black people unjustly.” Mr. Crump is noble, a man who fights for those who cannot help themselves. Just because someone misspoke does not mean they are anything less.

What makes Nadi Hallgren (Black and Missing) so compelling is she found a subject that has a pulse on what has been happening in the United States over the past decade. He has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Andre Hill, Daunte Wright, Tafara Williams, and Sheila Brown. He has been at the forefront of issues like “banking while black” and the Gopher Battery Plant lawsuit. Mr. Crump also represents black farmers who received inadequate or no training for protection from glyphosate herbicide. This mirrors several issues of many minority employees who have violated their rights in the southern agricultural and meat packing industry for decades. And there are two of the most prominent murders of African Americans he has represented during the 21st-century civil rights movement – Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

While you may argue Ms. Hallgren’s documentary Civil may linger on her subject’s persona too much without a three-dimensional view, which is fair, they may be missing the point. For one, it’s about the people he tirelessly represents. He even points out a nightmare he has where he is running out of time. The second, Mr. Crump’s style and self-righteous grandstanding may be that blemish you were maybe looking for. However, this camouflage is there because he has every right to be.

Mr. Crump is that counterpoint the black community needs to fight for a future with less bloodshed. Civil is a chronicle of a proud man who carries a sad history everywhere he goes.

What did you think of the Netflix documentary Civil: Ben Crump? Comment below. 

You can watch this documentary with a subscription to Netflix. 

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