Film­maker’s fo­cus: ‘What re­ally hap­pened’ in Fer­gu­son

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Mark Kennedy AP writer

Sabaah Fo­layan went to Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, three sum­mers ago as a pre-med stu­dent hop­ing to find a way to ease the anger en­gulf­ing po­lice and res­i­dents.

She left a film­maker.

Fo­layan and her co-direc­tor, Da­mon Davis, stitched to­gether Whose Streets? — a doc­u­men­tary look­ing at the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing death of Michael Brown and the up­ris­ing that fol­lowed.

The film­mak­ers fol­low sev­eral peo­ple caught up in the protest move­ment and of­fer in­ti­mate looks at the costs they’ve paid.

One has saved rub­ber bul­lets and tear gas can­is­ters shot at him.

An­other de­lays her ed­u­ca­tion to show her young daugh­ter what it is to fight for what she be­lieves in.

Associated Press writer Mark Kennedy asked Fo­layan, whose de­but film made it to Sun­dance, about what it was like on those streets, if po­lice need re­train­ing and why not ev­ery­one is shown in her film. film out as quickly as pos­si­ble while the story was still fresh and present. And we felt like, in the greater con­text, there was so much of the other side be­ing pre­sented. There was so many of these in­ter­views and you have pun­dits and you have pub­lic of­fi­cials. They have these na­tional plat­forms to speak and let the Amer­i­can peo­ple know what it is that they’re think­ing, what their ra­tio­nale is. The peo­ple on the ground, the peo­ple from St. Louis, the peo­ple whose back­yard this is, weren’t af­forded that same kind of plat­form, so we wanted this to pro­vide some con­text to what was al­ready out there.

The ten­sion is pal­pa­ble. You can feel peo­ples’ fear, you can feel the fric­tion be­tween po­lice and the com­mu­nity at all times. So it was re­ally tough. It was tough be­cause a doc­u­men­tary isn’t ev­ery­thing. A doc­u­men­tary doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally change ev­ery­thing. But we felt like it was im­por­tant for this to be in­serted into the canon, into the pub­lic record, so that peo­ple have a chance to know what hap­pened — what re­ally hap­pened — on the ground there.

It wasn’t a mat­ter of not try­ing. We spoke with po­lice of­fi­cers. We spoke with the mayor, but ul­ti­mately none of those peo­ple were able to cross that blue line. They weren’t giv­ing us their hu­man per­spec­tive. Ev­ery­one who we spoke to and fea­tured re­ally opened up to us and was vul­ner­a­ble with us in a very par­tic­u­lar way, and we wanted to have those con­ver­sa­tions with any­one who would but, for the most part, we just got sort of the same lines.

I think when you see that same sort of policing hap­pen­ing from St. Louis to Ari­zona to Bal­ti­more and all these dif­fer­ent places, it be­comes dif­fi­cult for me to imag­ine that they’re not act­ing how they’re trained. I don’t think it’s poor train­ing or a lack of train­ing. I think that this is what they’re be­ing trained to do. The halls of power where these de­ci­sions are made are pur­posely silo-ed from us and are not trans­par­ent to us.

“Brit­tany and Kenna,” a still from — a doc­u­men­tary about “what re­ally hap­pened” in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri. pro­test­ers. Why does this keep hap­pen­ing? Is this mostly about po­lice train­ing?

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