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Shadows of Doubt

Vincent Simmons may have good reason to be angry. He was convicted of rape 20 years ago, and evidence suggesting that one of the two women he allegedly violated was a virgin—and therefore not a victim of rape—may have been suppressed during his trial. When Simmons went to his parole hearing, hoping to prove his innocence or at least be given the opportunity for a new trial, the board dismissed his claims and sent him back to complete his 100-year term at Angola State Prison, also known as the Farm, in Louisiana.

Shadows of Doubt, the new documentary by Academy Award-winner Jonathan Stack (pictured), reveals the conflicting stories of how three people’s lives were changed by a horrific crime that allegedly took place in a small town in Louisiana. The documentary will be shown next Thursday (April 4) at the Albany Law School.

In the film, Simmons pleads that he is innocent and shows evidence that he did not receive a fair trial. Karen and Sharon Sanders, the women who say they were sexually assaulted, unquestionably believe that Simmons was the man who raped them when they were only 14 years old. The twins discuss the devastating effect that the rape has had on their lives.

The film is a continuation of Stack’s Academy Award-winning documentary The Farm: Angola, USA, about life inside one of America’s most notorious prisons. Stack first introduced Simmons’ case in The Farm, which depicted Simmons’ parole hearing. The attitude of the parole-board members, who were convinced of Simmons’ guilt regardless of evidence presented to them, enraged audiences throughout the world.

Three years after making The Farm, Stack returned to Angola—and the little town of Marksville in Avoyelles Parish, La.—to discover what happened that night 20 years ago. Shadows of Doubt delves into the inconsistency in the case brought against Simmons, and tells a larger story of a town and a criminal-justice system that is clearly divided by race. The documentary feature interviews with whites who talk nostalgically about a time when “blacks knew their place” and African- Americans who say that no black person can get a fair trial. At the end of the film, it’s unclear if Simmons is innocent or if the twins who accused him of raping them are telling the truth.

The local screening of Shadows of Doubt is presented by Albany Restorative Community Justice and Roots to Reel. “We have a lot of issues to tackle here locally,” says Isla Roona, Albany Restorative Community Justice’s project coordinator. “Race is a big one, and it’s a big issue in criminal justice, and it is something that we need to continuously think about. I think this film helps us do just that.”

Shadows of Doubt will be shown next Thursday (April 4) at 6 PM in the east wing of Albany Law School (80 New Scotland Ave., Albany), and director Jonathan Stack will speak at the screening. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. For more information, call 471-9713.

—Nancy Guerin

David J, Mistle Thrush, the Bird Circuit

This just in: Bela Lugosi is still dead. But David J, former bassist for goth-rock legends Bauhaus, is alive and well and coming to Valentine’s tomorrow, on Good Friday (of all days).

Though the band (named for an early 20th-century art movement originating in Germany, which emphasized minimalism and functionality over ornament and aesthetic delicacy) called it quits in 1983, their sparse, angular, brooding—even chilly—vibe established a template for intelligent underworld rockers that still holds sway: Jane’s Addiction and Type O Negative (not to mention lesser lights such as Prodigy, Orgy and Marilyn Manson) have more-than-noticeable traces of the brash, slashing guitar work, the spidery keyboards and/or the unblinking fascination with the morbid that typified Bauhaus. Interestingly, J himself has not been bound by his band’s legacy.

After the dissolution of Bauhaus, J went on to collaborate with a number of Northern English eccentrics from his hometown of Northampton, creating soundscapes for comic-book artist Alan Moore, and contributing to the odd pop of the Jazz Butcher; he also worked with poet-artist Rene Halkett, a member of the original Bauhaus movement. He did team with ex-bandmates to form Love and Rockets, who scored in 1989 with the single “So Alive,” but even that project had a sound distinct from his earlier, angstier work. J’s hushed and reserved voice is—some might say—a little creepy, but the sentiments expressed in his recent work steer clear of the gothic metaphors that he helped institutionalize.

A track on an upcoming EP, The Guitar Man, testifies to both J’s influential place in the history of pop music and his own stylistic diversity: The title track is an old Bread song, and the support players flocking to J’s side include Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Mark Kozalek of the Red House Painters and Bruce Kaplan of the American Music Club. (Those folks won’t be in tow for the Valentine’s show unfortunately, but J will have cellist Joyce Rooks and percussionist Kris Krull backing him up.)

Opening for J will be Mistle Thrush (pictured), whose guitar-heavy psychedelia has drawn comparisons to everyone from Sonic Youth to Jim Morrison to Kate Bush. The band themselves cite Zeppelin, Floyd and PJ Harvey as influences, but perhaps Virtually Alternative had the right approach by skipping the listing of sound-like references: “Mistle Thrush pushes the borders of indie guitar rock . . . combining the ethereal and the unforgiving.” Also on the bill will be the Bird Circuit.

David J will play Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) on Friday (March 29) at 9 PM. Mistle Thrush and Bird Circuit will open. For more information, call 432-6572.

Sasha + Digweed

If you get the feeling sometimes, flipping through the pages of Mixer, that your humble abode in the Capital Region is—how should we put it—something less than cutting-edge when it comes to pop culture, dig this: After spearheading the trance movement of electronica in London, achieving massive success, then blowing open the genre and achieving even massiver success, and then bringing their massivosity across the pond to a residency at Twilo in New York City, where do you suppose Sasha + Digweed will go? Disneyland? No way, man. They’re going to Clifton Park. Yes, superstar DJs Sasha + Digweed—whom folks in the know are expecting to achieve the kind of crossover success last visited upon Moby—are hitting Northern Lights on Tuesday (April 2) for an all-ages blowout. And have we mentioned their massivitude? Tickets for the 8 PM show are $35, $30 advance. For more information, call 371-0012.

 

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