'Crown Heights' tells true story of long fight to free a man jailed for a crime he didn't commit

Honored that Crown Heights has been featured by the Los Angeles Times! Read the full length feature article here.

Actor Nnamdi Asomugha, from left, Lakeith Stanfield, Natalie Paul and writer/director Matt Ruskin from the film, "Crown Heights", at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23, 2017, in Park City, Utah. (Taylor Jewell / Invision/AP)

Actor Nnamdi Asomugha, from left, Lakeith Stanfield, Natalie Paul and writer/director Matt Ruskin from the film, "Crown Heights", at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23, 2017, in Park City, Utah. (Taylor Jewell / Invision/AP)

Steven Zeitchik

“I don’t think you can understand. Carl was my angel,” Warner said in a phone interview from Georgia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. “But he was in prison too because he lost so much.”

Ruskin said King’s level of devotion took on an almost existential component.

“What struck me is how Carl couldn’t go back to being business as usual,” said the director, an indie filmmaker who wooed the principals after they had previously sold options to Warner Bros. and DreamWorks. (The project came to Hollywood’s attention with an extended “This American Life” story 12 years ago.)

“It was about Colin, but it was also bigger than that for Carl. It seemed like a big piece of his identity was defined by not being OK with letting this go.”

Throughout years of film development, Ruskin recalled, King and Warner would take radically different attitudes, the former being persistent with weekly check-in calls and the latter taking an if-it-happens-it-happens approach.

“Each of their reactions was like a window into how they approached life,” Ruskin said. “Colin was just waiting and being Zen. Carl kept persevering and not taking no for an answer.”


Sundance: Lakeith Stanfield's Prison Drama 'Crown Heights' Nabbed by Amazon

Crown Heights was bought by Amazon! Watch an exclusive interview with the stars and director/creator of Crown Heights on The Hollywood Reporter here.

Image courtesy of 'One News Page.'

Image courtesy of 'One News Page.'


The Matt Ruskin title centers on a real-life Brooklyn man who is arrested and wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Amazon is moving into Crown Heights, acquiring the title after its world premiere at the Sundance Film FestivalThe Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The streaming service nabbed the film for just over $2 million. The film will receive a theatrical release.


With ‘Crown Heights,’ Nnamdi Asomugha’s Post-NFL Career is Off to a Strong Start — Sundance Springboard

IndieWire did a fantastic interview with Crown Heights actor and retired NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha. Read the full interview here!

Steve Greene

Nnamdi Asomugha has experience with rabid crowds, armchair critics, and the pressure of performing under an intense national spotlight. He did just wrap up his first opening weekend at Sundance, after all. (Oh, and he also played for 10 years in the National Football League.)

The former cornerback shines in Matt Ruskin’s debut film “Crown Heights,” which follows the true story of Collin Warner and Carl King, two friends bonded by decades of friendship in the face of false imprisonment. Asomugha plays King, a New York City process server who spent the better part of 20 years trying to exonerate Warner (Lakeith Stanfield) after the latter was framed for a murder he didn’t commit.

Even amidst a stellar ensemble, which also features Stanfield, Bill Camp and Brian Tyree Henry, the film really comes alive when Asomugha is the main focus. Portraying King’s gradual, methodical amateur sleuthing is the kind of patient character work that independent film thrives on. Though Asomugha is a producer on the film, this is far from a vanity project. His performance as King is subtle, grounded, and engaging — everything an attention-seeking debut isn’t.

Daniel Bergeron

Daniel Bergeron


Going Sundancing! - Carnegie Mellon Sundance Review

New Renaissance's own Jonathan Baker has been teaching film finance at Carnegie Mellon for over a decade. Read the full CMU Sundance Review here

Jonathan Baker, an adjunct professor in CMU’s Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) program, served as an executive producer on “Crown Heights.” The film centers on the true story of Colin Warner, who was wrongfully convicted of murder, and his best friend who devotes his life to proving his innocence.
Cheering on Baker’s film in Park City, Utah, will be second-year MEIM students, who attend special seminars and panels at the Sundance Film Festival each year to learn about distribution and film acquisition. The MEIM program is a joint offering of CMU’s Heinz College and College of Fine Arts.

Sundance: Nnamdi Asomugha on Wrongful Conviction Drama 'Crown Heights'

The Hollywood Reporter featured Nnamdi on our film Crown Heights. Check out the full article here.

"NFL cornerback-turned-actor Nnamdi Asomugha stars as King, with Atlanta's Lakeith Stanfield starring opposite as Warner.

"There was something very altruistic about him. It was like he wanted to free all people from any sort of injustice," said Asomugha of King, whom he spent time with in New York prior to the feature heading into production."

Asomugha as Carl "KC" King in the Sundance Audience Choice Award winning film 'Crown Heights.' Photo courtesy of 'The Playlist.'

Asomugha as Carl "KC" King in the Sundance Audience Choice Award winning film 'Crown Heights.' Photo courtesy of 'The Playlist.'


Sundance 2017: 13 Talents Poised to Break Out At This Year’s Festival

IndieWire has featured our dear friend, collaborator, and founder of iam21 Entertainment Nnamdi Asomugha as a breakout star this year. Read the full article here.

"Nnamdi Asomugha has been on American screens for the better part of the last two decades. But a few years removed from an 11-season NFL career, Asomugha has chosen a distinct venue for launching a film career. Asomugha has popped up in a few places (a guest spot on “Friday Night Lights” here, a small role in “Hello, My Name is Doris” there), even playing himself in an extra-surreal “Kroll Show” segment. As both producer and co-star of Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights,” the 35-year-old Asomugha will play Carl King, who investigated the conviction of his childhood friend, despite having no formal legal training. With much of the heavy lifting of the film (one based on a true story, no less), it’s an audacious move for a first-time film star."
Daniel Bergeron

Daniel Bergeron


The 23 Most Anticipated Movies at Sundance This Year

We were featured on Vulture's top 23 films at Sundance 2017 list! Check out the full list here.

"Following his acclaimed part in Atlanta (and truly spectacular Golden Globes appearance), Lakeith Stanfield takes on what might be the most demanding role of his career to date as Colin Warner, a real-life man imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit. Former NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha plays his friend Carl King, who stages a decades-long campaign to free Warner that provides the narrative spine of Matt Ruskin’s second feature."

Black Filmmakers Take on Sundance Film Festival

Thanks NBC News for including our film on your list! Read the full report here.

Keith Stanfield appears in Crown Heights by Matt Ruskin. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.     Ben Kutchins

Keith Stanfield appears in Crown Heights by Matt Ruskin. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Ben Kutchins

"The feature film Crown Heights is based on the true story of a wrongly convicted black teen, Colin Warner, whose best friend, Carl "KC" King, fights for 20 years to his murder conviction overturned. Both Warner and King will be at the film's Sundance premiere, so now you know how the story ends.

Actor and rapper Lakeith Stanfield, who appears in the Golden Globe winning Atlanta plays Warner, while former All-Pro NFL defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha, who is married to Kerry Washington, portrays King. Filmmaker Matt Ruskin says he was incredibly moved by the courage and integrity of the people at the heart of this story, which is why he wanted to make the film."


Sundance Film Review: ‘Crown Heights’

Read the full Variety review of Crown Heights here.

Andrew Barker

Senior Features Writer

In case anyone needs a reminder, the fight against unjust policing in black communities long predates the cases that have dominated headlines in recent years, and Matt Ruskin’s film “Crown Heights” shines a spotlight on one particularly egregious injustice that stretched from the dawn of the 1980s all the way to the start of the current millennium...

Adapted from a “This American Life” episode that detailed the case of Colin Warner (Stanfield), who spent 20 years behind bars for murder before being freed in 2001, the movie offers an interesting companion piece to Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” and ought to receive a look from festivals going forward...

As good as Stanfield is in the lead — the actor’s typical laidback demeanor proves an asset here, as he limns a very slow burn from dazed disorientation into focused anger — the film doesn’t really kicks into gear until in the later going, as Carl [Nnamdi Asomugha] becomes the de facto protagonist. Through his eyes, we get to see just how stacked the deck is against the wrongfully accused, as Carl risks his marriage, changes careers, goes into debt, and sometimes wanders into perilous situations to try to buy his friend another shot at freedom, even after Colin himself has all but given up. A former member of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and a producer on the film, Asomugha really comes into his own as an actor in this role, dialing down the heroic aggrandizement and instead stressing the sheer weariness that such dedication enacts.


Sundance 2017: How Nnamdi Asomugha Aged 20 Years In Crown Heights

Crown Heights premiered at Sundance 2017, won the Audience Choice Award, and was soon after picked up by Amazon for global release.

Read the full Entertainment Weekly feature here.

by MARC MALKIN Tue, Jan 24, 2017 11:45 AM

Crown Heights didn't have a big budget so aging the cast about two decades wouldn't be easy.

Or maybe it was.

The independent film follows the true story of Colin Warner (Atlanta's Lakeith Stanfield), a young man from Trinidad who spent 20 years in prison for a 1980 murder in Brooklyn that he didn't commit. Former NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha plays Carl King, Colin's best friend who dedicated his life to proving his innocence.

You can't help but notice the eyeglasses that Asomugha wears throughout the movie. 

"Those were everything," Asomugha, 35, told me at the Sundance Film Festival. "Everybody keeps talking about the glasses, and it was important. And I think that's the way. It's such a small film, low-budget film, and you have to age 20 years and you don't always have the resources to do that, so the glasses for my character were important in showing the age and the time difference."