Rated: R for language throughout. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 24, 2017 Released by: Magnolia Pictures
A roughhewn, impassionate documentary without voiceover is a riveting remonstration where "the language of the unheard" descended on a northern suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson, Missouri. Even more so after more recent dire relations in St. Louis where brutality led to a death and a subsequent acquittal.
Whose Streets? implies an immediacy that is vital and uninhibited from the August, 2014 murder of 18-year-old black man and petty criminal Michael Brown by 28-year-old officer Darren Wilson who averred "you can't perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you."
The approach of filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis provides a strong sense of community and uprising in an impoverished, uneducated place that coalesces with the likes of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner in justifiable killing. With deliberations around a threatening black individual that would point towards authority and a quote from a Chief Justice in the Dred Scott Decision, "The Negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect."
The filmmakers (Folayan, an activist interrupting her path to becoming a doctor and Davis, an artist and musician with skill in moving pictures) persuasively use archival footage and smartphone-filmed interviews for immersive, interpretative effect. It's clear they're not trying to show off any prowess behind the camera, but reveal a little grace under the enormous pressure where protests were met with quite the military force as a nearly year-and-a-half period demonstrates.
Obviously, there are no easy solutions where a divide appears to be simmering more than ever. But Whose Streets? allows a brutalized, anguished populace the opportunity to make an impression even beyond the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement. Standing out is Brittany Ferrell who weds her partner forming Millennial Activists United and informs her daughter about the meaning and importance of protesting even while doing it in a roadway can be troublesome. Not to mention others like David Whitt who witnessed the death from his nearby apartment complex (where Brown lay in the street for four and half hours) starting 'Copwatch' as well as thoughtful educator Tory Russell whose inquiries are left unanswered by the small town's key authority figures.