The American Can


TYPE
: Narrative Feature
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Development

LOGLINE

Based on the true story and set in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,  a disillusioned Marine veteran, John Keller, must confront his inner demons to save people trapped in his apartment building before lives begin to perish.

SYNOPSIS

JOHN KELLER, an African-American no-nonsense ex-Marine, is just getting by with his tiny dog TOOTIE at the AMERICAN CAN (aka “the Can”) an apartment complex in New Orleans. Tough and sturdy, Keller suffers from PTSD post Desert Storm and just wants to be left alone, while his therapist at the V.A. works hard to rebuild John’s trust in people. Doing carpentry and odd jobs, Keller can barely scrape by, especially when quirky clients like his neighbor, wheelchair-bound, bible-thumping MS. WAYNETTA refuses to pay. Although John is a decorated vet, the system has failed him and he can’t even get his full disability benefits. He faces eviction and, worst of all, his ex, NICOLE, has blindsided him by suddenly moving and taking his precocious 7-year-old daughter, JADE, with her out-of-state.

When category 5 Hurricane Katrina hits, the good people of New Orleans hunker down like always to let the storm pass. But when the levee breaks the city floods, bringing total destruction in what has become one of the worst disasters in modern history.

With the city under water, Keller loses contact with his MAMA. Finding a kayak, he rows to her home only to see first-hand the devastation that has overrun the city. Coming upon a high school classmate dead in the water triggers traumatic memories of Iraq. With no sign of Mama, Keller takes her rosary beads and heads back to the Can, where he discovers shotgun-wielding security officer, NATHAN, aiming “to protect” the predominantly white residents from the predominantly Black outsiders who have taken refuge in the massive five-story complex. Most are harmless, other it remains to be seen.

Racial tensions are running high. The outsiders are displaced, need food, water, medicine, and shelter. BAMA, a frustrated outsider, shoots at a passing helicopter because it won’t stop on the Can’s rooftop. Residents, DESI, an attractive Army brat, and TRE, Keller’s quasi filmmaker cousin, become caught up in the bitter fight between the haves and have nots. Keller wants to retreat and just smoke a blunt. But something within him won’t let him turn his back.

With keen intelligence, military training, and problem-solving skills, Keller slowly takes command, using a fire extinguisher to write an S.O.S. message on the rooftop. As Nathan sets out to take back control and purge the Can of the “outsiders,” Keller is reluctantly becoming the defacto leader -- from helping blind, elderly resident, MS. PEARL, to a trip to “loot” a grocery store -- at each turn he’s further drawn into the mission of saving the people. Despite some wins, the water has not subsided, and time is running out. Elderly resident, Ms. Waynetta, is on her last oxygen tank with only hours left before it’s empty. You got guns, hunger, Nathan fueling a racial divide and tensions now spiking. The Can won’t make it another day. In a critical moment, Keller orders for all the Elderly white residents to be brought to the rooftop. There’s immediate pushback, but this, he hopes, will get the helicopters to stop and give them aid.

What transpires in the next 24 hours is the stuff of legend. Keller oversees the evacuation of two hundred and forty-four people and will ultimately face a life and death decision, if he is to make it out alive.  This is the story of the unbreakable human spirit. A story that must be seen to be believed. A story that will ignite hope and unite hearts. A story of a real African-American hero. This is The American Can.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

ADETORO MAKINDE ~ Writer | Producer 

Fourteen years ago, my life changed forever when I met John Keller. It wasn't just his heroism during Hurricane Katrina that got my attention. It was also my need to reveal the overlooked humanity when race became the benchmark for rescue, and the color of a person’s skins defined whether you perceived as "looting" vs. "finding” food for survival.

As it unfolded, the events of the storm were told through the eyes of the media. The images of violence, chaos and death that erupted won’t soon be forgotten. Some argue that the government abandoned the city and residents did what they had to do. Others say that the lawlessness was just an excuse for criminals, mostly Black, to terrorize the city and wreak havoc. However, the survivors all have personal stories that transcend that reality. While the argument over what could have, should have, or did not get done will long be debated, the role race, class and the breakdown in communication played is undeniable in this American tragedy.

When people hear John speak, they are moved by his authenticity, vulnerability and humanity. Although Hurricane Katrina doesn't define who he is, it's something he says he "needed" to find himself after service to his country. His story is so unbelievable that it must be told.

With the 15-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2020, and race relations more fractured under our current government, now is the time to tell this story. As the Writer/Producer, I am here to validate the experience of countless survivors who looked me in the eye and said, "I thought I was going to die. So whatever you do, please get this right.“

KEY CREW

Adetoro Makinde - Writer | Producer

A first-generation Nigerian-American, Adetoro Makinde is an award-winning filmmaker and graduate of Georgetown University and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. She burst onto the scene with her Sundance films WHOA, In Time, A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy.

Most recently Adetoro was the Line Producer on the NETFLIX and Leonardo DiCaprio produced documentary, Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski and Impact Producer for Emmy and Golden Globe nominated feature The Tale in South Africa.

Her first spec script, The American Can, was originally optioned by Sony Pictures as a star vehicle for Will Smith and later Denzel Washington.

Adetoro is Co-Founder and President of the collective Women Independent Producers (WIP), former Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives for Film Fatales, a Project Involve Producing Fellow and 2018 Made in NY Fellow.  In support of her visions to expand narratives from the African Diaspora, she most recently received grants from the Ford Foundation and HBO Corporate & Social Responsibility.

Lance Corporal John S. Keller, Jr. - Hero

A native son of New Orleans, John Keller was born into a middle-class family and graduated from the elite boarding school, St. Stanislaus College Preparatory in Mississippi. An active student, he earned his pilot license for a Cessna 172, was a member of the ski and yacht team, captain of the basketball team and the first black student voted as senior class President. 

Forgoing college, John joined the military and served for four years. Lance Corporal Keller was a member of the 1st Reconnaissance Marine, 1st Recon Battalion Special Forces Team during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. He was honorably discharged from the Armed Forces after exposure to toxic agents on the battlefield. He returned to the Crescent City a decorated veteran and was given a Key to the City. 

While suffering from PTSD after the physically and emotionally taxing affects of Iraq, John heroically rescued hundreds of people trapped atop his apartment complex in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

 

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