A new film from two emerging directors opens Friday and tackles the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
“Whose Streets,” a Magnolia Pictures release directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, takes viewers on an unflinching journey into the Ferguson uprising.
The incendiary documentary captures the unrest after police gun down Brown, marking the breaking point for residents in the greater St. Louis area.
“I really wanted the perspective of my community to represent and it was something I didn’t see coming from the major media outlets, so I set out to provide that perspective and I found a partner to do so,” said Davis, one of the directors, who hails from the Missouri community where Brown died.
The film, which opens at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore, relives the grief of Ferguson residents and African-Americans throughout the nation.
It highlights the longstanding racial tensions and renewed anger that saw residents come together to hold a vigil and protest the latest tragedy involving unarmed Blacks and law enforcement.
“As the National Guard [descended] on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance built on radical love,” Davis said.
Davis and Folayan lived the story, making “Whose Streets,” a power battle cry from a generation fighting, not for their civil rights, but for the right to live.
“This film is important because it is told for the prospective of the people, by people that lived the experience,” Davis said. “I think that is a feat in the film world because rarely do people with these experiences have the resources to tell their own stories. I hope everyone makes plans to see it because it is essential to understand the full story of the Ferguson rebellion.”
Broken into six chapters, with an episodic structure, one reviewer said it’s posed as a rebuke to anybody who might question what was done after the cameras left town, to those who wonder what the residents of impoverished communities are doing to improve their circumstances.
Black organizers around the city continued their work long after Ferguson faded from the national dialogue, and some of the film’s most wrenching moments concerns the individual toll it takes to rail against a society that seems to hold some of its most struggling citizens in such low regard.
One cutaway sees a resident discussing how he’s still waiting for his first black president, considering Obama’s measured response to the protests and occupation of the city highly inadequate at best.
Folayan and Davis capture these instances with a bracing intimacy, posing protest as necessary instead of reactionary, a gesture of anguish from people who simply want to live, a reviewer noted.
“The film came about from about two and a half years of hard work,” Davis said. “I definitely think we stayed true to our vision and achieved what we set out to do, create a portrait of Black life under occupation. We wrote a love letter to black people, show the complexities of life while trying to survive and thrive in a country that never intended for you to do either.”
The film’s importance can be noted in that its told from the perspective of those who experienced Ferguson’s unrest and its aftermath.
“I think that is a feat in the film world because rarely do people with these experiences have the resources to tell their own stories,” Davis said. “I hope everyone makes plans to see it because it is essential to understand the full story of the Ferguson rebellion.”
For showtimes, go to thecharles.com.