Thursday, August 17, 2017

The On-the-Ground Cinema of Ferguson Documentary Whose Streets?

Brittany and her daughter Kendra.
WHOSE STREETS? (Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, US, 104 mins)

South Central Los Angeles filmmaker Sabaah Folayan dedicates her directorial debut to Michael Brown Jr., which only makes sense since her documentary serves as a long-form response to his killing. 

Folayan and St. Louis-based co-director Damon Davis start by recount-
ing Brown's 2014 death at the hands of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson before plunging into the state of the streets in the aftermath. 

Shaky camcorder and cellphone footage provide the on-the-scene visuals to which they inter-cut interviews with young men and women of color. Speakers include Brittany Farrell, a nursing student-turned-activist and single mother, and David Whitt, a father of two who diligently documents every potential act of police misconduct that he witnesses. 

Both face arrest and eviction as a result of their actions, though Farrell, more happily, also marries fellow activist Alexis during the film. Context comes by way of tweets, inter-titles, and television news reports. 

Throughout, Folayan and Davis capture marches, rioting, looting, tear
gas, rubber bullets, and the non-Obama-sanctioned deployment of the
National Guard before proceeding to the protests following the grand jury
decision, the Ferguson October march, and the Department of Justice 
finding of racial bias on the part of the Ferguson Police Department. 

If Michael Brown never received the justice he deserved, his murder galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. Though the camera work may prove challenging for some, Whose Streets allows protesters to speak for themselves free from the narratives imposed on them by media outlets who can't possibly know their lives the way they do.  

Whose Streets? opens at the Northwest Film Forum on Fri, Aug 18.