If you can believe it, it’s been 3 years since the brutal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by a police officer. Following the tragic shooting, a firestorm of protests erupted in Ferguson in what will be documented in history books for years to come.
As always, it is significant for us to tell our own stories. Peering into the lens to document one of the most explosive racially-based protests in history takes a black filmmaker’s eye. Especially one that knows the innerworkings of St. Louis culture. Thankfully, one such documentary, Whose Streets embodies just that. Co-directed by Sabaah Folayan and St. Louis-based Damon Davis, Whose Streets chronicles the infamous Ferguson protests in an up-close-and-personal way that allows its residents to reclaim their story… and their streets.
The directors sat down with Go! Magazine to discuss their Sundance Film Festival sensation that now has a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating and the inspiration behind making it.
On the title of the film, “It’s a protest chant — a call-and-response chant that goes “Whose Streets? Our Streets.” It’s really an expression by people of the fact that this is our public property — and not only that, but that public servants should be here to serve our needs,” said Folayan.
|Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures: Pictured left to right, Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan
What makes the film so resonating to people is how authentic it is. “A lot of the people were people that I knew and (Folayan) knew. People who would talk to us and also people who felt comfortable on camera. It was really organic. (The documentary is) basically about people who stop taking what’s given to them and decide to take control of their own destinies,” noted Davis. “These are everyday black people with complex lives but who still have the time to go out and protest — and take on the burden of humanity that most people won’t deal with.”
The film, which came about when Folayan went to Ferguson to do a public health study, invoked a poignant reaction from Sundance audiences who confirmed learning about a side of the story they had never known.
In that sense, alone, the film had done its job.
Whose Streets will be released in theaters on August 11. To learn more about Whose Streets, visit its website here.