It has been three years since the tragic murder of Michael Brown and the fight is far from over. With White Nationalist (READ: Nazi) groups having marches and a president that condones discrimination, things have deteriorated exponentially in the span of a few years. With a nuclear threat looming from overseas, Whose Streets? reminds us of the near-nuclear racial climate in the United States and just how little has been done to make up for these injustices.
Co-directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis take us through a first-hand tour of the Ferguson protests following the murder of Michael Brown, at the very climax of the events. The film consists of footage shot first hand by the directors or by witnesses at the scene. Camcorder footage combined with camera phone footage and news coverage help fill any gaps within the story telling. They always shed some light to the stark contrasts between live footage shot by the residents of Ferguson and the conspicuously limited footage presented by media outlets who also add their own commentary to it. Together it turns into a mismatch of different aspect ratios, video resolutions and sound clarity that perfectly represents the situation at Ferguson. The chaos of the protests can be felt, but so can the power through the rough footage. The state of unrest and anger can be felt as the person holding the camera shakes with fury, heightening the raw emotional impact of every scene.
Folayan and Davis take the view closer than just the national scope most of us are familiar with and shines a light on the local events and people who live at ground zero. This refined look at the daily lives of several citizens and their families overrides the broad strokes we may have seen in other videos or coverage of the events and further humanizes it. Although these protests may have had widespread effects, like the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, it also shook the core of a small town. With big movements like BLM, most people tend to see the forest for the trees, but despite the power that comes with such a large scope, there is an even greater power in the intimacy of seeing the individual experience.
As the documentary progresses, it plays out like a novel separated by chapters, each with a historical quote that explains what happens within it. The quotes are important, not only for the messages they provide but also for the semi-prophetic quality to them, as if predicting the existence of the same inequality that plagued their society decades earlier. Whose Streets? shows everything that leads up to the incident and the justification behind the escalation. Although the documentary has an ending, further chapters in its story are still being written today, giving the audience the feeling that we have yet to reach the true climax.
The timeliness of this documentary is uncanny. We are again on the verge of a full-scale protest against bigots who have been empowered by a president who wears his own prejudices like a badge of honor. Whose Streets? serves as a guide to modern civil disobedience, and emphasizes the need to have a united community with the same goals. The documentary also offers several lessons for people joining protests and the commitment that is expected from you if you are going to be an ally.
America was built on the idea of revolution and revolt against an oppressive system, and we have fought wars to defend that basic human right for ourselves and for others. Whose Streets? is a reminder that the war is still being waged today, but instead of fighting the oppressive influence of some external force, the abuse is coming from those sworn to protect us. Ferguson is just one inciting incident in a fight that has been going on for centuries. While it serves as a detailed look at an event that mainstream media widely misreported, it is also meant to be a guide on what to expect from a corrupt system when it is opposed by peaceful protests.