“Whose Streets?”: Black activists at the center of new film


Magnolia Pictures

Three years ago this week, a young African-American man named Michael Brown was gunned down in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. His death, at the hands of a trigger-happy white police officer, and the protests that followed to seek justice for his murder helped ignite the movement that became known as Black Lives Matter.

This movement has forced the country to confront the problem of police brutality against everyday people, disproportionately Black Americans, as a central reality of politics and race relations. The narrative around the Black Lives Matter movement has often been a fragmented one, with supporters and detractors alike eager to add their viewpoints. The new documentary film Whose Streets?, which focuses on the killing of Michael Brown and the movement that arose in its wake, puts Black activists front and center.

The film, being released August 11 in Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis, was directed by two African-American filmmakers, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis. The young directors explained to Filmmaker Magazine that they wanted to do more than just make a film that stroked their egos or presented a montage of chants and rallies, but rather to create something that went beyond the regular media narrative.

Folayan explained, “What was being put on the news was only catching the surface of the issues. Sensationalist, inflammatory language was hyping the story to get ratings, but as a society we needed to get to the truth and to positive dialogue.” Davis added, “How could we use this movie as a tool to change the world…We’re trying to make something that Black people can feel good about. Where they can see themselves as both heroes and complex human beings.”

Magnolia Pictures

The documentary, which combines the use of fast-paced cinematography and cellphone footage, gives faces and hearts to the struggle, by choosing to focus on a select group of individuals. Audiences take the journey through the aftermath of Brown’s death with Brittany Farrell, a nurse and young mother; David Whitt, a recruiter for the civilian organization WeCopWatch.org; and Tory Russell, a cofounder of Hands Up United.

The film opens with a quote of the now infamous Dred Scott Case, in which the Supreme Court decided in 1857 that no Black person, freed or enslaved, could claim U.S. citizenship and the rights that entailed. It was a fitting reference with which to begin, seeing as how the lack of justice for Michael Brown, and hundreds of other Black Americans assaulted and/or killed by police, continues to leave many questioning whether African Americans can receive equal justice under the law in the U.S.

From there the documentary flashes through visuals of the turmoil in the streets of Ferguson and the raw reactions of people in the aftermath of tragedy. Clips from various mainstream media outlets are used to highlight the lack of complexity that most reports gave to Ferguson and the activists there.

Whose Streets? is a showcase of the multilayered nature of the Black community combined with… READ THE REST AT PEOPLE’S WORLD.