Sundance shines light on Ferguson unrest

‘Whose Streets?’, which has received glowing reviews at the Sundance film festival, explores the community behind the headlines of the civil unrest in the US suburb of Ferguson following the death of African American Michael Brown by a white police officer.

(WHOSE STREETS? LLC) – ‘Whose Streets?’ is the first of number of films at the Sundance film festival which tackles issues of what it is to be African American in the United States.

The film, which premiered on the opening day of the festival (January 19) and subsequently received exceptionally glowing reviews, explores the community in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of African American Michael Brown by a white police officer in 2014.

The unrest in the area made worldwide news as the community protested peacefully and occasionally violently against the authorities, leaving the area under a state of emergency.

‘Whose Streets?’ attempts to show the humanity behind the headlines and follows the people who were involved in the protests – one of which – Brittany Ferrell – turned out for the Sundance film festival premiere.

“I feel that the narrative was told that the world saw was like CNN, national media outlets that kind of got off on riot porn and just showing the brutality or showing the looting or the rioting and it’s like we are those people. We are those people,” she said. “This film will humanize us in a way that no other national media outlet has ever done.”

The film, co-directed by Sabaah Folayan and Missouri resident Damon Davis, combines social media, amateur footage as well as fresh footage following some of the key people in the community.

Folayan explained the need to make the film at the premiere, saying “When mainstream media isn’t committed to solving these problems but is more committed to ratings, when politicians are so partisan that they’re confusing us, it becomes up to artists to show people the way and I think people are responding to that call and I think you’re seeing artists responding to that call, you’re going to keep seeing them respond to that call and you just saw (US president Donald) Trump defund the NEA (National Endowments for the Arts) which is huge and it’s going to be more important than ever for organizations to keep supporting artists so we can keep doing this work and try to prevent some resistance to what’s happening.”

“It (the film) shows people working together to protect one another in their immediate space, fighting for the space they can touch, that they can see, that they can live in,” she added. “The federal government at this point is frankly comprimised so it’s really time for us to focus on how we can control our local politics, how can we control the space around us, how can we protect people from the onslaught that has been promised by the incoming administration.”

The events in Ferguson sparked a debate in the United States about the relationship between police officers and members of the African American community. Ferrell hopes that the film will continue to do that and bring change in her country.

“The problem is racism, white supremacy, privelege and power,” she stated calmly. “People have to give up their power, they have to recognize their privelege, they have to counter white supremacy. It’s systematic and until people try and break this down and realize this is a systematic issue, we’re still going to be here in the same spot, which is why national movements like the Black Lives Matter movement is important. You bring attention to these issues, you have people really think about how we got here, why are we still here. We had a civil rights movement in the sixties. Why do we have to have another one? Because we haven’t made as much progress as people think that we have.”

Following its premiere, ‘Whose Streets?’ was given five stars by UK newspaper The Guardian, and trade publication The Hollywood Reporter said “attention must be paid to rousing, indignant films like this one, bristling with hurt and humanity.”


Associated Links

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Shooting of Michael Brown
  • Whose Streets?
  • Ferguson
  • Sundance
  • Ferguson, Missouri
  • Race and crime in the United States
  • Hashtags
  • Law enforcement in the United States
  • Damon Davis

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