(director: Sabaah Folayan/Damon Davis; screenwriter: Sabaah Folayan; cinematographer: Lucas Alvarado-Farrar; editor: Christopher McNabb; music: Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes; Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Florence Miller, Jennifer MacArthur, Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis; Magnolia; 2017)

No attempt is made to interview the police or government officials, so if looking for a balanced documentary on this controversial subject, this film is not for you.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An activist made racially-charged documentary on the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting by the white Police Officer Darren Wilson of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. It’s directed by political activists Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis to raise concerns about long-running black grievances in the community and show a version not filtered through by the mainstream media. It takes the POV of the predominantly working class and poor African-Americans in that suburban St. Louis town. No attempt is made to interview the police or government officials, so if looking for a balanced documentary on this controversial subject, this film is not for you. This one is all about race and class differences, and how blacks have a different view than whites because their experience with the police is different. What makes this film different from other versions is that it shows the anger and frustration of the black community and in an attempt to redress an imbalance of storytelling from the establishment media they highlight and interview those community blacks who felt misrepresented or ignored in the usual telling of such riots. For those who embrace the social media and cell phone videos and are willing to want to hear what the Black Lives Matter people are saying, this is your film. The facts that emerged is that Brown, the large-framed 18-year-old, was shot August 9, 2014, after stealing stuff from a convenience store, then fighting with Officer Wilson through his squad car window. Brown fled the scene and Wilson followed, killing him with one of the twelve shots fired that left him with multiple gunshot wounds. Rumors circulated that Brown put his hands up in the air, which was later disputed by the police and justice department. But the protesters did not believe that version. Things were in a frenzy even after the video of Brown looting the store and shoving a clerk was released. A riot occurred amidst a heavy militaristic police presence, where cops were taunted, rocks thrown, cars burned and some looting took place. But, for the most part, this was called a non-violent riot. Those interviewed point out that their predominantly black community has an an almost all-white police force who live in other communities. The thought-provoking film wants us to reflect on how we see this racial divide along racial lines. As an historical document its one-sided storytelling becomes just as questionable as those might be from the mainstream media. Where it succeeds is in telling a gripping historical story about lessons that still have to be learned about racial conflict in a still divided America, and of the new direction the civil rights movement is taking. If looking for positives, the film shows this might be a good beginning in understanding the racial climate better than before by showing a community come together in peaceful mourning and vigils after the tragic events.

Whose Streets? Poster

REVIEWED ON 11/21/2017 GRADE: B-      https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/