The MKE-made Don­tre Hamil­ton doc­u­men­tary.

A fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary of­fers an in­ti­mate por­trait of Don­tre Hamil­ton’s fam­ily.

Milwaukee Magazine - - Content - BY JENNA KASHOU

WHEN LO­CAL FILM­MAKER ERIK LJUNG started film­ing the fam­ily of Don­tre Hamil­ton, he didn’t have a spe­cific goal in mind. “At the be­gin­ning I didn’t know what I wanted to do with [the footage], and we both [Ljung and the Hamil­tons] didn’t know what we were get­ting into,” says Ljung. “I just kept show­ing up at ral­lies, and the more I filmed with them, the more they trusted me.”

Hamil­ton, an un­armed black man di­ag­nosed with schizophre­nia, was shot and killed by a po­lice­man Down­town on April 30, 2014. The of­fi­cer, later fired from the po­lice force, was never charged, and a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2015 de­ter­mined there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to pur­sue crim­i­nal civil rights charges.

In the af­ter­math of Hamil­ton’s death, Ljung and his team – many work­ing for free – amassed more than 400 hours of footage over the course of 2 ½ years that doc­u­ments the Hamil­ton fam­ily’s emer­gence as lead­ers in their com­mu­nity and na­tion­ally. With the help of edi­tor Michael Voll­mann, who was in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing a com­pelling nar­ra­tive, Ljung as­sem­bled a fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary, The Blood is at the Doorstep. The movie de­buted in March at the South By South­west Film Fes­ti­val in Austin, Texas, where it was one of 10 films in its cat­e­gory se­lected from nearly 1,000 en­tries. It re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion. Later, the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter in­cluded it on a short list of critic’s picks.

The movie de­picts how the Hamil­tons were thrust into the spot­light fol­low­ing the shoot­ing, while still mourn­ing, and it shows the strug­gle for jus­tice from their per­spec­tive. Key play­ers – in­clud­ing District At­tor­ney John Chisholm, Po­lice Chief Ed Flynn and Christo­pher Man­ney, the of­fi­cer – are all in the film.

It “shows a fam­ily that was very apo­lit­i­cal, but felt no one was fight­ing for them, so they took mat­ters into their own hands to cre­ate change,” says Ljung.

Ljung first used the footage to make a short film on the topic, Moth­ers for Jus­tice, shown at the Mil­wau­kee Film Fes­ti­val in 2015. Both ver­sions are en­tirely lo­cal projects: Ljung re­ceived his fund­ing from Mil­wau­kee in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions and worked ex­clu­sively with Mil­wau­kee film­mak­ers.

The film will be shown at the Hu­man Rights Watch Film Fes­ti­val in New York City June 9 and

10, with Nate and Maria Hamil­ton (Don­tre’s brother and mother) in at­ten­dance. Says Ljung: “Our ul­ti­mate goal is to bring the film to a national au­di­ence so that the Hamil­ton fam­ily’s story can help to in­spire com­mu­ni­ties and re­for­ma­tive mea­sures across the coun­try.”

The film will have its Mil­wau­kee de­but this fall. To find out more, go to the­blood­is­atthe­do­orstep.tv.

Film­mak­ers Erik Ljung (left)

and Michael Voll­mann

Be­low, from left: Dameion Perkins, Nathaniel Hamil­ton Sr., Nate Hamil­ton Jr.

and Maria Hamil­ton

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