Thursday, August 17, 2017

WHOSE STREETS? Documentarians Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis answer the question

Here we are again, back in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Michael Brown and the aftermath of that death. Yet, as much as you may have heard, seen and read about young Mr. Brown and the city and peculiar culture of Ferguson (and TrustMovies saw, heard and read quite a lot about it during those fraught weeks following that August 2014 shooting), nothing has had quite the impact carried by the new documentary, WHOSE STREETS?, directed and co-produced by the team of Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis (shown below, with Mr. Davis on the left).

The documentary's sense of vivid immediacy comes via the footage videoed during the time immediately after the shooting and beyond, as Ferguson residents -- some of them activists and civic leaders, most of them just inhabitants -- take to the streets in grief and anger as, slowly, the history of this mostly black city-under-siege come to light. Yes, the movie is too long and too repetitive (more judicious editing could have easily snipped ten to fifteen minutes), but its power and timeliness is unassailable. Unless, of course, you're one of those who marched (or would have liked to) for white supremacy last week in Charlottesville.

The angle taken by Ms Folayn and Mr. Davis is direct and personal. As one elderly protestor notes early on: "We're not doin' this just to be rantin' and ravin'. We want to talk about this issue." The issue, of course, turned out to be about much more than Brown's death, which was a horrible outcome of the continued suffering that residents of Ferguson have experience down the decades. (The Federal investigation into this showed quite clearly the injustice at work here.)

In addition to Ferguson residents, we also hear from the police, the Missouri governor, and even from that weak sister, President Obama. The media coverage -- we see prevaricator Brian Williams and Fox News, among others -- was often garbage, as it remains today, but some of the witnesses and residents proves compelling, in particular a young father whose CopWatch camera captures quite a lot (until the lease on his apartment is refused renewal by the corporation that owns the building), a young mother and her daughter (who isn't so happy about all her homework), and a young woman whose chant, "We will continue to fight for our rights!" proves a rallying cry for a neighborhood.

These people and others help bring the movie to sad and angry life. When a second young man -- Vonderrit Myers -- is also killed in October 2014, the movement, as one protester explains, is "re-energized."  The film is full of angry, poignant moments -- from the chant of "This is what Democracy looks like!" (if only) to a demonstration leader advising the local clergy to "Get up off your ass and join us!" to a young man who explains, "I gotta live here when they (the media) leave."

The single shot of the face of a lone black policewoman during the demonstrations may be worth the entire movie, and by the time we get to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson (the police officer who shot Michael Brown) and the riots/protests begin once again, you will more than understand how the Black Lives Matter movement arose of out of these -- and so many other -- deaths of unarmed black men and women.

From Magnolia Pictures and running a little long at 100 minutes, Whose Streets? opens tomorrow, Friday, August 18, here in South Florida exclusively at the O Cinema Wynwood. Wherever you live around the USA, click here to locate the theaters nearest you.

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