‘The Banker’ movie’s release date in limbo after pulled from AFI festival

5 mins read

The radio silence surrounding Apple’s pull of its highly-anticipated film, “The Banker,” is deafening.

With an award-winning cast—Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Nicholas Hoult and Nia Long—the buzz around Hollywood was that it had Oscar potential. Apple planned its release to a select number of theaters in December then would stream it on its service, Apple Plus TV.

Right before it was scheduled to debut at the American Film Institute festival this weekend, the tech company that has been angling to nudge itself into the movie streaming market, nixed the screening and completely delayed its December theatrical release. 

In a released statement, they said that “some concerns surrounding the film were brought to our attention.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, Apple halted its plans amid allegations against one of its consulting producers, Bernard Garret, Jr. His half sisters, Cynthia and Sheila Garrett allege that he molested them for years when they were younger. The siblings share the same father, Bernard Garrett, Sr., of whom much of the movie, “The Banker,” is about.

In what was described as an “entertaining and educational story about social change and financial literacy” by Apple, was defined by Cynthia Garrett, as a film in which Garrett Jr., “stole” her “mother’s life story,” Also, she asserts that her brother completely erased her mother and sisters from the story.

In the 1950s, Garrett and his business partner, Joe Morris devised a plan to acquire a financial institution in a segregated Texas that practiced discriminatory lending now known as redlining. They trained, Matthew D. Steiner, a working class white man, to front as the head of a financial company they owned, while they acted as his chauffeur and a janitor. 

Eventually, they purchased 54 percent of First National Bank of Marlin in Marlin, Texas where they provided mortgages to African Americans. When the federal government discovered that they were Black men, they were arrested for misusing FDIC insured bank funds in 1968 and convicted.

As well, court documents show that the Feds sued Garret and Morris for using their Houston-based corporation, the Continental Bank and Trust Company,  “as their alter ego and instrumentality” had Steiner and his wife, Sanfilippo to declare that they would hold all of the shares.

In their claim, the Garrett sisters say that their half-brother, changed the timeline of events in the movie. Garret Jr. is about 15 years older, is the child from Garrett Sr.’s first marriage to Eunice Garrett, who is played by Nia Long in the movie. The half-sisters are from the second marriage to Linda Garrett who also ended up divorcing from Garrett Sr. 

According to their accounts, Garrett Jr. lived with his father and his new family after Garrett Sr. was released from prison. There he molested them in the 1970s. Cynthia Garrett says that she withheld the accounts of abuse until the 1980s when she and her sister confided in each other, only to discover similarities. On a January 9, 2018 during a talk on the 700 Club, Cynthia talks about being molested at 9-years-old, though she does not name her abuser.

Following the recent allegations tied to Garrett Jr., he removed himself from any dealings with the film. After announcements that the film’s release was in limbo, Cynthia Garrett tweeted:

So sorry we can’t all enjoy watching my mom and dads real story. All this person had to do was stop compounding his abuse. It HURTS. But we simply had enough. #TimeHadToBeUp

However, one of the movie’s producers, Romulus Entertainment, asserts that the script is based on hours of interviews with Garret, Sr. Cynthia, who now spearheads a ministry, said that she will release an open letter soon to tell her story.

Bridging the racial wealth gap

Rarely do movies follow the lives of real-life, African Americans. In particular, those who left a legacy of outsmarting an American system with a history of carrying out a number of legal and illegal roadblocks against Blacks acquire and maintain wealth. 

If released, “The Banker” will tell the story of an oft-practice by Black businesspersons who had to circumnavigate a racist banking structure. Founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, John H. Johnson, used his white friend to meet with a Chicago real estate agent to facilitate the purchase of what would be the headquarters of the largest owned, African American media company to date.

It is the rich history of Garrett Sr. and Morris that some think is ultimately being lost. Said one user @NeikoThePrince:

I hope Cynthia Garrett follows up with her own statement because this made the entire educational story about finance and class system fall flat on its face

While there has been support for the alleged victims, there has also been expressed disappointment on the delay of the movie.

Melissa O’Donell, an actor Tweeted out: I had the #honor and #privilege of screening #TheBanker #movie. I really hope this incredible #project is seen.  Hard #shoutout to the #cast and #crew for this credibly #beautiful #work.

Mentioned another social media user: Apple canceled the premiere of #TheBanker due to sexual abuse allegations against the real-life subjects son. It’s funny how a movie about redlining & black men buying banks is up in the air but the music of R.Kelly, & Movies produced by Harvey Weinstein still are on the platform

Said one user on Twitter: So everyone has to pay for the action of a few idiots?? How often do we get to see films centred on Black ppl & Black men these days?? Yet this is the 2nd Black film THIS WEEK that has been pulled from general viewing bc of issues unrelated to the film.  #TheBanker #BlueStory

Another lamented: My guess is…it didn’t show #BlackMen as thugs, drug dealers or murderers so they don’t want the story told. “Apple canceled the premiere of ‘The Banker,’ as it investigates ‘concerns surrounding the film'”

In an additional post: I hope things turn around and we get to see the film sooner rather than later. Many talented and dedicated humans involved in its production. Long hours and sacrifice make up what we consume for entertainment. Would be dumb to revel in controversy because: Apple

Who gets a pass versus who gets passed on

The movies unexpected fall raises the question for some as to what movies get cancelled in the midst of controversy, and those that remain untouched. In the age of the Metoo Movement, dozens of industry productions were impacted. But who stays and who gets ostracized?

One person asked on Twitter: The film industry has looked the other way for a LONG went it came to predator directors, producers, actors, etc. All of the sudden, they’ve gained scruples? #TheBanker

Most notably, the fall and now slow ascendency of film producer, Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by dozens of women⸺from A-list actors to up-and-coming thespians. Recently, Vox reported that he began to make his rounds at industry events connected to the beginning stages of production.

As for “The Banker,” while the release is in limbo, the Hollywood Reporter said that attorney for Romulus Entertainment stated that the film will undergo changes in its description as being “based on true events,:” as opposed to its original depiction of a “true life story.”

This past weekend, Apple released the movie, “Hala,” in selected theaters.

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