Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse
A documentary film by Brian Lindstrom
Premiere – Portland International Film Festival, February 15, 2013.
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Alien Boy: the Life and Death of James Chasse is a feature-length documentary film by Brian Lindstrom. At a time when more Americans than ever are receiving mental health diagnoses, the film takes a humane look at mental illness, humanizing one of its victims and undermining stigma.
The film also explores the issue of impunity by following the response of a city to a brutal death of an innocent man who happened to suffer from mental illness. What happened to James Chasse sparked the first involvement in U.S. history of the Department Of Justice in tackling police responses to a nationwide crisis in mental health funding.
What came to be called “the Chasse incident” has arguably been brewing ever since President Ronald Reagan deinstitutionalized hundreds of thousands of people suffering with mental illness in the early 1980s. Its implications are far reaching for anyone concerned about the lack of a social safety net in the modern U.S., or about the troubling implications of austerity cuts in mental health support services around the world.
In 2006 James Chasse was apprehended by three law enforcement officers in downtown Portland, Oregon in broad daylight. A dozen eyewitnesses watched in horror as the officers tackled, beat, kicked and Tazer’ed James, then casually drank coffee with paramedics as he lay crumpled on the pavement with 16 broken ribs and a punctured lung. James had not committed a crime, so why did the officers attack him?
Who was James Chasse? The officers told witnesses James was a drug dealer, a homeless person, a non-person, a ghost. But that wasn’t true at all. James was an artist and a poet and a musician; he had a home and a family and friends who loved him. He was a small, shy, gentle person who had with schizophrenia.
Paramedics at the scene signed off on James’ injuries, even as he begged for help, but when the officers took him to jail, nurses refused to admit him due to the severity of his injuries. He died en route to the hospital with his hands cuffed behind his back and a bag over his head, slumped in the back seat of a police car.
Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse is a feature length documentary film about one man’s struggle with schizophrenia and the extraordinary brutality that ended his life. It is the story of a city in denial that was forced to face the truth and learn, grow and change as a result. Alien Boy explores issues of impunity, police brutality, and mental illness.
The film explores issues of impunity, police brutality, and mental illness. Made as a Kickstarter passion project, the film took over six years to create with financial and in-kind support from over 1400 people.
BRIAN LINDSTROM – DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT
“What draws me to documentary film is the opportunity to shed light on the hidden lives of people who have been dealt a hard hand in life and somehow find the strength to carry on.
“One such life was that of James Chasse, a man with schizophrenia who died in the custody of Portland police in 2006. My film examines his childhood, his intense involvement in the early Portland punk music scene as a writer, illustrator and musician (The Wipers wrote the song “Alien Boy” about him), his heartbreaking teenage onset of mental illness, and his brave efforts to avoid institutionalization and maintain his independence.
“Using interviews, personal writings, archival footage, official documents and depositions the film explores James Chasse’s life and the actions and decisions that led to his death. What emerges is an intimate and complex story of one man’s life, the struggle for his family to find justice after his tragic death, and a city and a system grappling with accountability.”
Director of Photography for Alien Boy is John Campbell, a veteran cameraman with credits on dozens of Hollywood films, including two films with Portland director Gus Van Sant, Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho.
Charlie Campbell composed the score and select additional music for the film. Charlie is a semi-retired rock musician most famous for fronting the band Pond. He now creates music for TV and movies, including Full Grown Men and Winter’s Passing.
The film’s writer is Matt Davis. He first broke the story of Chasse’s beating in Portland, where he was news editor of The Portland Mercury until 2010. He won the 2012 New Orleans Press Club Award for Investigative Journalism.
Editor and Producer Andrew Saunderson joined the film in 2008 while a student at Lewis & Clark College and quickly established himself as indispensable. He was Assistant Editor on the feature-length documentary To Pay My Way With Stories (2009) and the award-winning narrative/documentary hybrid Old Town Diary (2010).
Jason Renaud is the producer of Alien Boy. He is the former executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Oregon and Washington states and the founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland.
Executive Producer Garth Stein is author of the best-selling novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. Cheryl Strayed is author of the best-selling
Chasse lying on the side walk after his beating by police, 9 17 2006 (1280 × 720). Photo attribution Portland Mercury / Jamie Marquez
Chasse v. Portland – 2007 (1280 × 720)
Constance Doolan – Chasse death eyewitness (1280 × 720)
Linda Gerber – Chasse’s mother (1280 × 720)
James Chasse, Sr. – Chasse’s father (1280 × 720)
Tom Steenson – Chasse family attorney (1280 × 720)
Chasse outside of group home (1280 × 720)
Chasse in front of Central Library (1280 × 720)
Chasse’s drawings from his magazine, Oregon Organizm (1280 × 720)
James Chasse, DMV card about 2005 (1280 × 720)
Young Jim (1280 × 720)
Portland Police Sergeant Kyle Nice, who was also implicated in Chasse’s death (1280 × 720)
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy Bret Burton (1280 × 720)
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Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse – www.alienboy.org – Official site
Mental Health Association of Portland – commissioned Alien Boy in 2007.
Brian Lindstrom – Wikipedia
James Chasse – Wikipedia
Mental Health Association of Portland – Wikipedia
All stories tagged “James Chasse” from The Oregonian (about 1350 results)
All stories tagged “James Chasse” from the Portland Mercury (about 635 results)
All stories tagged “James Chasse” from the Willamette Week (about 277 results)
All stories tagged “Chasse” from KATU TV (about 217 results)
All stories tagged “Chasse” from KGW TV (about 75 results)
All stories tagged “Chasse” from Oregon Public Broadcasting (about 20 results)
Why James Chasse’s story matters to Portland, by Oregonian columnist Anna Griffin
INTERVIEWS / SOURCES — In order of appearance
Randy Moe – Jim’s friend
Brian Lee – Jim’s friend
Steve Doughton – Jim’s friend
Mike Lastra – Jim’s friend
Eva Lake – Jim’s friend
Marian Drake – Jim’s friend
Betty Mayther – Jim’s teacher
Rozz Rezbeck – Jim’s friend
Sam Henry – Jim’s friend
Michael Brophy – Jim’s friend
Linda Gerber – Jim’s mother
James Chasse, Sr. – Jim’s father
Brian Wasserman – Jim’s friend
Odette Dunbar – Jim’s friend
Karl Brimner – Director, Multnomah County Mental Health
Yvonne Ingram – Jim’s friend
Russell Sacco, MD – Jim’s friend
Constance Doolan – eyewitness
Randall Stuart – eyewitness
Jamie Marquez – eyewitness
David Lillegaard – eyewitness
Matthew Charles Davis – Portland Mercury
Anna Griffin – The Oregonian
Karen Gunson, MD – Multnomah County Medical Examiner
Scott Westerman – Portland Police Association president
Tom Steenson – Chasse family attorney
Bob Joondeph – Disability Rights Oregon
Dan Handelman – Portland Copwatch
Richard Elliot – Jim’s friend
Sam Adams – Mayor of Portland
Ted Wheeler – Multnomah County Commission chair