Whose Streets? Screen 92 of 9 reviews

Whose Streets?

2017

Whose Streets? Poster
  • It may prove to be of limited value as a historical document precisely because of its decision to leave the broad-strokes, "this happened and then that happened" storytelling to mainstream sources while it lives in the in-between spaces... But these are minor quibbles with a major work. This is a movie that doesn't merely tell a gripping, important story, but reminds us that the storyteller and the storytelling matter just as much.

  • A gritty record of that time and its aftermath. It represents the spirit of something more powerful than a bullet, the seed of something good springing from a terrible and unjust event. Whose Streets? is rough around the edges, like a torn photograph whose borders have also been raggedly burned. But that's more a strength than a liability

  • The filmmakers don't aestheticize the violence with non-diegetic music or commentary, nor edit the material together in a strictly chronological, present-tense sense. Rather, responses by protesters determine where the camera cuts to next, with leaps between various times and places indicating a larger problem, one that goes deeper than the “now,” and that needs to be confronted by the viewer's own reflection and interrogation.

  • Both Detroit and Whose Streets? move from a large-scale panoramic view of an urban community in crisis toward a more intimate portrait of a few of the individuals involved. But Whose Streets? is the more effective and emotionally powerful of the two, perhaps because it constructs its world from the ground up, not from the top down.

  • One white Missourian I met at the festival told me quite frankly that the film had spurred within her something of a crisis of conscience, persuading her not only of the invalidity of the mantra ‘all lives matter’, to which she’d previously subscribed, but also – and I swear I’m not making this up – of the need for reparations. This is programming as a political act, and paradoxically, its power lies in being less prescriptive, not more.

  • The movie that moves me the most at the festival this year is Whose Streets, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’ first-hand chronicle of the Ferguson protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. The footage is stunning, depicting an American war zone with unflinching humanity and lending platform to the men and women fighting for equality against an endlessly powerful system. But this film is not propaganda, not even journalism. It’s pure artistry.

  • Its directors, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, are novice filmmakers, true; but I also suspect this movie’s form is deliberate, part of its message. This is direct and frequently powerful filmmaking that doesn’t much care about meeting my aesthetic standards.

  • Folayan and her co-director Damon Davis spotlight the voices and the experiences of the Ferguson community, blending interviews, on-the-ground images and mobile-phone footage of various protests and violent police actions to create a stirring portrait of resistance.

  • Folayan and Davis take an evenhanded approach: civilians loot stores and burn police cars, whereas police officers fire tear gas and aim rifles at peacefully protesting crowds. The five "chapters" of the film seem arbitrary, though the passage of time allows for some searing moments, like the locals' fight to keep the city from cleaning up a memorial to the victim, Michael Brown Jr., in the street where he died.