‘CRU’ Pleasing Crowds in Encore Showings

"CRU," a film directed by Alton Glass and co-written by Oliver W. Ottley III, drew crowds at its three encore screenings on Saturday at Prior-Jollek Hall at Antilles School, with three more showings planned for Sunday.

"CRU’s" final screenings at Antilles School will take place at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 at the door.

Ottley, a Georgia native who has Virgin Islands heritage, has been spending time on St. Thomas since he was four years old. He has been touring the film in the territory since January.

A story of four high school friends united 20 years after a near-fatal car crash caused rifts in their relationships, "CRU" has been winning accolades for its sharp writing and artful direction. Ottley said that the film has been nominated for 23 awards and has won 11, including best film, best director, best screenplay and best actor at the 2014 American Black Film Festival.

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Audience members at "CRU’s" Saturday evening encore screening at Antilles school reacted favorably, with multiple people commending Ottley’s script for its intimate and nuanced portrayal of friendship between African-American men, which they said is underrepresented in larger budget Hollywood movies.

"A lot of African-American males are dying at an unprecedented rate all over the country, pockets like Chicago, here, New Orleans. So we definitely wanted to relay that message [of love] to do something different," said Ottley responding to a fan of the film during a question and answer session after the screening.

Ottley said he never expected to get into screenwriting, but that storytelling has been something that he has been passionate about since before he moved to California to pursue a career as a hip-hop artist. After being introduced to the world of filmmaking by a friend in Los Angeles, Ottley said he went through a sort of "writing boot camp" before working on "CRU."

While transitioning from music to pursuing a career in the film industry in L.A., Ottley said he even lived homeless for two months while honing his writing.

"I wasn’t going to go home beaten. I just believed in what I believed in. I was on Skid Row. I did the car thing, I did sheds, I did parks. But I was always centered on what it is I had to do. ‘Do I follow my vision or do I go back home and lick my wounds?’ I just chose to walk out on blind faith and just get to it," he said.

Ottley told the audience that he is in talks to work on a film to be set in the Virgin Islands, which audibly excited the crowd.

"I’ve got ideas going through my head while I’m standing up here talking," Ottley said.

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