WHOSE STREETS, doc­u­men­tary, rated R, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts,

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES - Cri de coeur

One of the stun­ning mo­ments in this raw, bumpy from direc­tors Sabaah Fo­layan and Da­mon Davis comes not on the hot streets of Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, where most of the film takes place, but in the cool stu­dios of ABC, where Ge­orge Stephanopou­los sits down with Darren Wilson, the white po­lice of­fi­cer who in the sum­mer of 2014 shot and killed an un­armed teenager named Michael Brown, and left his body ly­ing in the street for more than four hours.

Asked by the host whether he ad­mits to any racist feel­ings, the of­fi­cer replies, “You can’t per­form the du­ties of a po­lice of­fi­cer and have racism in you.”

This will come as news to African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties across this coun­try, where un­armed black men are sta­tis­ti­cally far more likely than un­armed white men to die from po­lice gun­fire.

Fo­layan and Davis wade into the Fer­gu­son neigh­bor­hood where Brown was killed, doc­u­ment­ing the un­rest and ac­tivism — and the po­lice and mil­i­tary re­sponse — with their own footage and ad­di­tional im­ages recorded on phones and dig­i­tal cam­eras by par­tic­i­pants and on­look­ers. Some of the street ac­tiv­ity is vi­o­lent, erupt­ing into loot­ing and burn­ing. Most of it is rel­a­tively peace­ful on the pro­tes­tors’ side, char­ac­ter­ized by the anger, frus­tra­tion, and sor­row of a community too ac­cus­tomed to los­ing its young men. A new wave of out­rage breaks out when a grand jury de­clines to bring charges against Wilson.

It’s a street’s-eye point of view, and the viewer can get lost in the tur­moil, as trau­ma­tized res­i­dents bran­dish hand­made signs and yell, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” as some wit­nesses claim Brown did be­fore he was killed. Po­lice move in on them in ex­pres­sion­less pha­lanxes, push­ing them back, fir­ing tear gas can­is­ters and rub­ber bul­lets. “Re­turn to your homes,” a loud­speaker voice or­ders; and protesters stand­ing in their front yards yell back that this is their home.

The film is loosely struc­tured, di­vided into five chap­ters, each headed with a quote from a black leader. One comes from Martin Luther King Jr: “A riot is the lan­guage of the un­heard.” The film­mak­ers spend time with sev­eral ac­tivists in the community, in­clud­ing David Whitt, a young fa­ther who recorded a lot of the ac­tion with a cam­era promi­nently marked with the in­signia “Cop­watch.” A young col­lege stu­dent named Brit­tany Far­rell takes her six-year-old daugh­ter Kenna out into the streets to ob­serve and take part. “I want her to think for her­self,” she ex­plains, “to re­sist and par­tic­i­pate in democ­racy.” That’s where hope for the fu­ture lies, the film con­cludes — in ed­u­cat­ing and pre­par­ing the next gen­er­a­tion to un­der­stand the chal­lenges of Amer­i­can racism and to work to over­come them. — Jonathan Richards

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