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Documentary reveals Kwame Kilpatrick in his own words

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit — About 300 people attended the premiere of a new documentary about former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on Friday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The movie, "KMK: A Documentary of Kwame Kilpatrick," offered a rare glimpse into a life long scrutinized: Tim and Tobias Smith, a father and son film-making team, were granted exclusive access to Kilpatrick after he left prison in 2011. The nearly 90-minute film chronicles the former mayor and his family as they prepared for the federal corruption trial that sent him back to prison in 2013.

"We didn't set out to change people's perception," Tobias Smith said. "We set out to simply put the truth out and let him speak. … After hearing from him, giving the full scope of who he is as a person, I think people will have a greater understanding of some of the decisions he has made."

The audience was supportive of Kilpatrick, cheering at him and booing at images of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, whose charges drove him from office.

In the film, Kilpatrick's former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, expressed regret for having "crossed a line" by having an affair that triggered the text message scandal that forced Kilpatrick from office in 2008.

The former mayor's wife, Carlita Kilpatrick, said she felt an "overall darkness" from dealing with constant scrutiny.

The documentary included footage of Kilpatrick sharing thoughts about the legal troubles, public perception of his character and his political career.

Asked if he wanted to be president, Kilpatrick demurred, citing the challenges in Detroit: "I couldn't endure this mayor's job" without angering a lot of people. Later, he said charges against him were politically motivated. Kilpatrick stressed he was committed to improving the city but became the latest in a line of black mayors unfairly viewed as "inadequate to lead."

The movie came about because Tim Smith is acquainted with Kilpatrick's mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who saw the pair's previous documentary about modern enslavement.

"She granted us access and everyone else fell in line," said Tobias Smith, who runs Luv 2 Flo Entertainment with his father.

During a question and answer session after the movie, one woman said Kilpatrick was "railroaded." Others questioned if he accepted accountability.

"Kwame was a very intelligent young man who still has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, he became corrupt," said Steve McCain of Detroit.

Kilpatrick is serving 28 years in federal prison after being found guilty of 24 counts in 2013, on charges he turned City Hall into a criminal enterprise.

During the post-film session, Daniel Ferguson, Kilpatrick's brother-in-law, said the former mayor is doing well behind bars and seeking an appeal.

Meanwhile, Tobias Smith said Friday there are ongoing talks to possibly have the documentary shown on a network.

mhicks@detroitnews.com