In August of 2013, 18-year-old Columbian-born artist Israel ‘Reefa’ Hernandez was killed by police while tagging an abandoned building in Miami. Through exhaustive investigation, it was discovered he was intentionally tased after he ran from the officers chasing him, some report, with weapons drawn and pointed at him. His death led to protests, and in 2017 he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Now filmmaker, Miami native, and daughter of immigrants Jessica Kavana Dornbusch has penned and directed the film Reefa about the struck down artist. After four years of intense research and much dialogue with Hernandez’s family, Kavana Dornbusch has crafted a story that is much more a celebration of a joyful, idealistic youth’s life than it is about a senseless, tragic death at the hands of the officers who should have been protecting him.
Tyler Dean Flores plays Israel ‘Reefa’ Hernandez, who may be a graffiti artist, but is a good kid, through and through. Skating with his model girlfriend Frankie, hanging with his friends, obeying or apologizing to his parents, this is the way he spends his days as a young man both considering his creative future and living in the now, thinking about the life ahead of him, and the art he wants to express in the world. He enjoys his days, has a strong artistic point of view, and his family life is filled with love. They are all just waiting for their green cards to come through. From time to time though, one particular cop comes around and harasses Israel and his friends, threatening them about their graffiti, and making his partner nervous with his aggressive, megalomaniacal attitude. It’s clear that’s going to end badly.
To read the entire REEFA review, go to the AWFJ.org site, HERE.