On Aug. 1, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Citing a recent Gallup poll, he noted that “only 30 percent of African-Americans say that they have confidence in police. That means African-Americans have the least trust in police of any group in the United States.” It was difficult to tell from his delivery if he was surprised, ambivalent, or intent on working with the Black community to change their justifiable feelings of mistrust. Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’ documentary Whose Streets? is a persuasive chronicle of that mistrust.
If you have any doubts that this country is racially divided and at war with itself, the film will erase them once and for all. The narrative begins with archival footage from 2014 in the hours after Michael Brown was shot to death in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. Whereas newscasts at the time filed their stories with sound bites of despair, this film uses those brief snippets as points of departure. The filmmakers record the aftermath, both the riots and the peaceful protests. They engage with a community of ordinary citizens who are grief-stricken but also energized by their outrage. Black Lives Matter is more than a hashtag for them — it’s a rallying cry that demands justice and equality from the indifference and brutality of white America.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero.