by George Wolf
Moving like a living, breathing monument to revolution, Whose Streets? captures a flashpoint in history with gripping vibrancy, as it bursts with an outrage both righteous and palpable.
Activists Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis share directing duties on their film debut, bringing precise, insightful storytelling instincts to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Together, they provide a new and sharp focus to the events surrounding the 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.
But what’s even more striking in this debut is how little these new directors care if they’re following anyone’s filmmaking 101 checklist. This is an extremely raw, incendiary story with a fitting perspective to match. To Folayan and Davis, buoyed by a stellar assist from film editor Christopher McNabb, these events demand nothing less, and they are correct.
Inevitable finger-pointing about a one-sided perspective is dealt swift, preemptive justice. As we’re quickly reminded of how the mainstream media framed their reporting on the Ferguson riots, urgent new footage bearing a citizen journalist zeal drives home the filmmakers’ point.
What most people have been shown has been “one sided for a reason.” This is the other side, and the unforgettable sights begin to mount.
A Ferguson resident displays the various military-grade ammo casings strewn about the local streets. An African-American police officer tries to remain stoic when her priorities are questioned. A white officer wears a “support Darren Wilson” bracelet while on duty in Ferguson.
As deeply as it cuts on a blunt, visceral level, Whose Streets? also benefits from a powerfully subtle context. It takes the pulse of communities that have railed against unequal policing for decades, only to find even more frustration when added video evidence failed to result in social justice.
To Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr., riots were “the language of the unheard.” Whose Streets? lays bare the rise of a movement powered by the voiceless going quietly no longer.