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