Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse
A feature-length documentary film that chronicles one man’s struggle with schizophrenia and examines the actions of the police officers responsible for his death, exposing a city grappling with accountability in the death of an innocent, unarmed man.
On a summer afternoon in 2006, James Chasse was stopped by three law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon. A dozen eyewitnesses watched in horror as they tackled, beat, kicked, and Taser'd James until he lay motionless on the pavement with 16 broken ribs and a punctured lung. He died in the back seat of a Portland Police car two hours later.
To look beyond the headlines and explanations, filmmaker Brian Lindstrom explores James’ childhood, his involvement in the early Portland punk music scene, the heart-breaking teenage onset of his schizophrenia, and his brave efforts to avoid institutionalization and maintain his independence.
Using interviews, personal writings, archival footage, official documents and videotaped depositions of the involved police officers, the film examines James Chasse's life and the police actions and decisions that led to his death. What emerges is an intimate and complex story of one man's life, the Chasse family’s struggle for justice, and a city and a system grappling with accountability.
BRIAN LINDSTROM – DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT
“What draws me to documentary film is the opportunity to shed light on the hidden lives of people who have been dealt a hard hand in life and somehow find the strength to carry on.
“One such life was that of James Chasse, a man with schizophrenia who died in the custody of Portland police in 2006. My film examines his childhood, his intense involvement in the early Portland punk music scene as a writer, illustrator and musician (The Wipers wrote the song “Alien Boy” about him), his heartbreaking teenage onset of mental illness, and his brave efforts to avoid institutionalization and maintain his independence.
“Using interviews, personal writings, archival footage, official documents and depositions the film explores James Chasse’s life and the actions and decisions that led to his death. What emerges is an intimate and complex story of one man’s life, the struggle for his family to find justice after his tragic death, and a city and a system grappling with accountability.”
Alien Boy is director Brian Lindstrom’s third feature-length documentary. Kicking is about drug detoxification and Finding Normal is about recovery from drug addiction.
Director of Photography for Alien Boy is John Campbell, a veteran cameraman with credits on dozens of Hollywood films, including two films with Portland director Gus Van Sant, Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho.
Editor and Producer Andrew Saunderson joined the film in 2008 while a student at Lewis & Clark College and quickly established himself as indispensable. Most recently he was assistant to Director Jean-Marc Vallée on the set of Wild.
Jason Renaud is the producer of Alien Boy. He is the former executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Oregon and Washington states and the founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland.