Whose Streets? (2017; Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, August 11, at the Landmark Embarcadero in San Francisco and the Landmark California in Berkeley.
A portrait of activism captured by activists, mostly focusing on street-level views of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri. The protests were held in response to the police murder of African-American teenager Michael Brown.
The sickeningly violent and dehumanizing police and military actions against peaceful protesters in Ferguson eventually sparked riots, but they also galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement into a literal life or death cause. Naturally, the compliant mainstream media stood behind the lines and reported on looters instead of investigating police brutality. Thankfully, Whose Streets? was largely assembled through various cell phone videos, giving us a powerfully intimate look inside a city under occupation and a people under siege.
Black Lives Matter leaders are understandably wary about their portrayal in the media, and even though the activist credentials of the directors allowed them unique access, background details and personal arcs are still reduced to a bare minimum. While the result is less coherent and lacerating than last year’s Do Not Resist, as a horrifyingly immediate compilation of battle footage from the American war on black people, and as a snapshot of activism in flux, Whose Streets? feels utterly indispensable.