Under Her Thumb
Free, Not Free
The American Justice system is broken. From corrupt police and crooked judges through to the growing racial divide thanks to accepted far-right, extremist views, Free Meek is a bleak, exhausting documentary that depicts the trials and tribulations this young 19 year old rapper had to endure through his life. Caught in a system hungry for fresh blood, Free Meek blends archival footage and tasteful re-enactments with interviews featuring Meek and his friends and family to paint a portrait of a country with a serious issue.
Free Meek doesn’t break new ground, especially given the prolific TIME: The Kalief Browder Story on Netflix that also captures the poignant spirit this series does so well in creating. Unlike the Netflix series though, this 5-part Amazon documentary ends on an inspirational high; a reminder that the system can be overcome but it’ll require a real fight and cultural reform every step of the way to do it.
Beginning with his early life, Free Meek opens with a look at rapper Meek Mill’s childhood and subsequent arrest charges before diving deep into the case itself, littered with numerous inaccuracies and overseen by a judge with a serious chip on her shoulder. As the series progresses we see a movement sweeping across America, leading up to Meek’s probation and eventual look ahead at justice reform to try and prevent this happening as frequently as it currently is.
Well-paced and continuously effective in delivering its message, Free Meek is a brutal reminder about the racial inequality and justice system issues America currently faces. With a mix of run-time lengths ranging from 30 to 45 minutes, each episode builds another chapter into this troubled case, climaxing in the final episode that brings closure, one way or another, and a look ahead at what’s next for Meek Mill.
Stylistically, the series does well to capture every detail and issue along the way, with all the usual scenes and drama you’d expect from a show like this. The interviews with defence lawyers, fly-on-the-wall telephone conversations back home and archival footage all combine nicely to paint a picture of a man desperate to get back to his family and put this never-ending nightmare behind him.
Adding to this is a hip-hop infused musical score, with bold text on the screen hammering home the significance of the rapper’s lyrics in the context of what’s happening in the episode. It’s a really nice touch and one that’s surprisingly effective in delivering its message. Hip Hop has always been a powerful, poetic art form but seeing it here, with the context of what’s happening, brings fresh clarity around the rapper’s choice of words and the series is a lot more effective for doing this.
While it may not be wholly original or showcase anything that’s hasn’t been done before in serialized format, Free Meek is another reminder about cultural reform and the utterly crippled justice system infecting a country that regularly boasts it’s the “Land Of The Free”. America is a beautiful country no doubt but its underbelly of inequality rears its ugly side here for all to see. It’s gripping, poignant stuff and if you’re a fan of true crime documentaries or are looking for another fix after watching the brilliant ‘When They See Us’, Free Meek is the perfect remedy and a solid documentary series to chew through in its own right.