A Review of “Whose Streets?” at the Human Rights Watch Festival 2018

Ferguson, Missouri, 9th August 2014: Michael Brown Jr, an unarmed Black man, was shot in cold blood by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, and his body left on the floor for more than four hours under the scorching sun.

In the days that followed the fatal shooting what happened next has been described as riots, looting, violence and vandalism by mainstream media.

But while the world was witnessing another shameless distortion of the truth, the uprising of a community that encountered policing and abuses daily and was able to build a powerful movement: #BlackLivesMatter. Through social media, Twitter, live videos and comments, the people of Ferguson were able to create a meaningful and more honest account of the events that followed Brown’s shooting, stressing both their need of justice and the systemic racism Black people encounters every day in the streets of America.

With her documentary Whose Streets? director and activist Sabaah Folayan, a gifted storyteller born and raised in South Central LA, subverts the narratives of violence and riot by bringing into light the stories of Ferguson’s community and its people: activists, students, religious leaders, but also families, parents, children and teenagers, the people who came together asking for justice and visibility, the people who were answered with more policing and distorted accounts of what happened in Ferguson in August 2014.

“Every day Americans experience a mediascape that humanizes whiteness, delving into the emotional lives of privileged white protagonists while portraying people of colour as two-dimensional (and mostly negative) stereotype”, the director writes “Nowhere was this more apparent than in the case of Mike Brown, who, in spite of being college bound & well regarded by his community, was portrayed as a “thug” and a “criminal.” For this reason, it is essential that Black people be the ones to tell our own true stories.”

Masterfully directed, delicate, empathetic and thorough, Whose Streets? focuses on a community ripped apart by a murder, one of the violent events that characterises the history of Black people in United States. By letting giving the voiceless a voice Folayan enlightens a new narrative, valuing the community’s point of view and letting them lead the audience through a journey of grief, rage, pride and change.

While using original footages, intimate interviews and by mixing scenes from the upbringing and intimate portraits of Ferguson and its people, the director cuts a new perspective into a well-known and exploited event, which its core and necessary meaning was never even considered by mainstream media.

Whose Streets?  leads us to a point where truth becomes impossible to ignore, where the shooting of an unarmed Black man becomes the last drop of the systemic devaluation of Black lives in the USA and the world. US 2017  Dir: Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis 101 min

Event InfoMarch 13, 2018 / Time: 6:10 PM /  Barbican    London

Screening followed by discussion with activist & film subject Kayla Reed, Raj Chada, Partner, Hodge Jones & Allen LLP and Eloise King, VICE UK, i-D, Women on Docs Buy tickets

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