We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
There is a scene late in "American Me" where a police squad car pulls up at a bus stop where a man and woman are standing. It is late at night. The couple have attended a wedding, and are in formal clothes. A cop gets out of the car, looks at the man, and asks him if he has done time in prison. Just like that. Is there a sad aura of some kind, that allows a cop to look at a man and know he has spent most of his life behind bars? "American Me" tells the story of the man at that bus stop.
His name is Santana. He is a Hispanic American who grows up in East Los Angeles, joins a street gang and is in prison while he is still of an age to be in high school. Prison is his school. By the time he is back on the streets again, he is a skillful, educated criminal.
The U.S. penal system has done its work - which, in this movie, is neither the punishment nor the eradication of crime, but the training of criminals.
Edward James Olmos, who directed the movie and plays Santana, says the film is based on a true story. That doesn't mean much to me; by the time the movies finish with them, true stories are as fictional as any other. What I felt watching "American Me," however, is that it is based on a true situation - on the reality that street gangs and prison, mixed with the drug sales that finance the process, work together to create a professional criminal class.