Ben Crump and Nadia Hallgren discuss film ‘Civil,’ shining a light on family

TheGrio caught up with the director and subject of the documentary at American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach.

Civil, Netflix’s powerful documentary centered on famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump, was selected as American Black Film Festival’s opening night film this year.

After the premiere, theGrio caught up with Crump and director Nadia Hallgren, who broke down the film’s emphasis on Crump’s choice of clients, Crump’s own family, and more.

Civil screening at 2022 American Black Film Festival
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – JUNE 15: Ben Crump and Nadia Hallgren attend Netflix’s Civil screening at the 2022 American Black Film Festival at New World Center on June 15, 2022 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Netflix)

Hallgren expressed how important it was to paint a full picture of Crump in the film. “I knew as much about Ben Crump as most people did when I jumped into making this film,” she explained.

“I saw him on TV. Most of the times I saw him he was angry,” she continued. ”Immediately when we were in person, I felt the warmth and the kindness and the humor. I knew that was so important to include in the film so that people really understand there is a man behind this mission.”

Civil, which premieres on Netflix this Sunday, is described as, “an intimate vérité look following the life of maverick civil rights attorney Ben Crump as he challenges America to come to terms with what it owes his clients — including the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.”

TheGrio was in the audience at the ABFF screening, which ended with a rousing standing ovation from the crowd. The film features intimate moments with clients as Crump walks through their grief, as well as moments with his own family as he balances being a son, husband and father.

The intimate look at Ben’s humanity also helps service the film structurally, Hallgren explained to theGrio. “The film is heavy…but then next thing you know you’re laughing. This emotional rollercoaster was really important for us to take people on because that was also the real life experience of being with Ben.”

Crump himself expressed nothing but gratitude for Halgreen’s delicate inclusion of his family in the film, specifically the inclusion of his mother.

“I am so grateful that Nadia highlighted my mother,” Crump said. “I think about all the sacrifices that strong Black women made for me and my little brothers, and for her to be able to see this in her lifetime meant a lot to me. All I am and all I am to be is because of what my mother sacrificed for us to keep food on the table, a roof over our head and hope in our hearts.”

"Civil" Premiere - 2022 Tribeca Festival
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 12: Ben Crump speaks onstage during “Civil” premiere during the 2022 Tribeca Festival at SVA Theater on June 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Netflix)

Hallgren added that the minute she met his mother, she knew the film had to include her. “Ben calls his mom everyday, so that wasn’t just in the film here and there,” she added. “That’s just who Ben Crump is.”

Civil premieres Sunday, June 19th on Netflix.

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