The review for Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan’s documentary Whose Streets?, on RogerEbert.com, includes a singularly significant line that speaks to this current moment in our civic and cultural lives. “50 years from now, when people ask about the Black Lives Matter Movement, I will tell them to see this movie.”
The film captures, in stingingly unblinking fashion, the determination and resolve of the birth of this evolving movement. Starting three years ago, on August 9th, spurred by the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a community rose up, fueled by grief and anger, as well as a longstanding sense of resentment and disrespect that goes all the way back to the founding of these United States. Standing opposed to that aggrieved community was a police force intent on protecting one of their own, backed by the militarized might of the state, which represents, by extension, the institutional authority of the nation.
If we are to objectively look at this standoff as a narrative, we would have to acknowledge that it is not presenting a fair fight. The community comes armed with teddy bears and candles, while the state arrives in armored vehicles, with troops spilling out in assault gear with tactical weapons, as if preparing to suppress an invading army. Rubber bullets and chemical agents sting the flesh and eyes, making it easy to round up the broken ranks.
Davis and Folayan embed themselves among the movement, alongside a group of fledgling activists forced to create new strategies and appropriate new tools to engage in a modern-day civil disobedience struggle. Getting this close means exposing the impact of the effort on families, relationships, and lives, but it also insures that we see how this generation of activists is already planting the seeds for the next.
What makes Whose Streets? truly revolutionary is how it erects a monument dedicated to this moment that, 50 years from now, will illuminate exactly what democracy can, and should, look like when any community exercises its rights. (Opens Friday) (R) Grade: A