Twelve. That’s how many times Myeisha, the titular character of My Name Is Myeisha, is shot by police while asleep in her car.
The origin of this film – and the traveling stage performance it’s based on – came from co-writer Rickerby Hinds wondering what would go through Myeisha’s mind in the moments before her death. The fact this 2018 Slamdance Film Festival project is based on a real-life police shooting that took place in Riverside in 1998 only adds to the emotional stakes of Myeisha’s story.
Myeisha ia a young black woman who just wants to go out for a fun night with her cousins in Los Angeles. A flat tire stops their plans, and Myeisha ends up in the front seat of her car, alone, waiting for a mechanic to come fix the wheel. Since she’s in a rough neighborhood, Myeisha puts her gun in her lap in case someone tries to mess with her. When she falls asleep, and won’t wake up, her cousins see her – and the gun – and call the police.
The rest is (tragic) history. But, again, the film and the story take place in the mind of Myeisha, a woman defined by so much more than her death. Through spoken word, beatboxing, dance, and imaginative indie set design that would make David Lynch jealous, the film provides a complex glimpse of a young black woman, her interests, and her opinions. Played with a sly assurance by Rhaechyl Walker, Myeisha wins you over, even though you know how her story ends. Walker won the Slamdance Acting Award for her performance, and the film itself won the Audience Award for the Beyond Feature category.
In a tour-de-force performance, John Merchant portrays many of the male characters in the film, providing the beatboxing and creative energy that make this drama a one-of-a-kind artistic experience. Directed by Gus Krieger, who approached Hinds about adapting the project after seeing the stage play, My Name Is Myeisha is the kind of film that makes me wish more filmmakers took creative risks.
This rich portrait of Myeisha and her inner world stay with the viewer long after the final shot rings out.