West Adams, Los Angeles, 2015, less than a month before the first primaries. We are introduced to the story via Bukka La Rocke, a neighbor, poet and sage, who calls forth to the chorus of assorted gatherers, imparting the saga of Jimmy Keene. In a moment of clarity, he focuses on Ivan Roistacher, a young bi-racial teen who appears lost.
Ivan is our conduit to the Family. Coming of age and cornered between the conflicting worldviews of his two highly intelligent sisters, Ivan has yet to find his own voice, easy enough when his sisters tell him at every step how to think and feel. Ivan maneuvers around the dance of opposition created by Jada and Aliza.
Jada is fiery, impassioned and enveloping. She’s a fighter and wants to change an unfair system. Aliza is distant, intellectual, and scared, reacting through anger, attack and expressive movement.
This is how you need to think. This is how you should act. This is how you should feel. Ivan retreats inside and searches for answers via podcasts and art and gets lost in his graphic imagination. The spirit of Jimmy Keene weighs heavily.
The news of another black youth getting shot and the impending autopsy report seep into every room of the Roistacher household, affecting each family member in different ways. How can a weakened dad help when he’s recovering from heart surgery? How can the mother keep her family in harmony when she has a complicated older daughter from another man and two younger kids from her current husband? They are all adults now but seem to be acting like children. Everyone need to be medicated. Fortunately, mom is a psychiatrist and might have some advice or maybe even a prescription pad.
What we see is just one day of this family. As the year moves forward, we get to explore each family member’s inner and outer worlds as the audience knows the culture is heading for even more upheaval and division. Ivan searches for answers in the local Los Angeles art community. Jada is about to begin her medical residency at USC, Aliza is confronting her company’s acquisition in Silicon Valley. Mom comforts patients with their own troubles while ignoring hers. Dad tries to gather his strength while struggling to keep his family together. They each have to sort out their relationship to the other given their love, secrets, jealousies and past histories. Explorations of race and identity through the pains, joys and complications of family, that’s what Jimmy Keene is about.
Ivan Roistacher is the youngest. Just out of high school, he’s trying to figure out what he thinks about….everything. Jada, USC Med student and activist, feels compelled to educate her brother in the ways of the world. Aliza, an older sister from a different father, is an uber-genius tech entrepreneur who has a little problem with basic social interactions. Joel, Jewish and white, is the father recovering from surgery and trying to mend his heart. Odessa, a psychiatrist with perhaps some boundary issues, is the matriarch, struggling to hold her family together and begging for calm, at least for one day.