When I spoke with Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis on April 14, 2017, a certain soft drink commercial featuring a certain member of a family famous for being famous had just been pulled for being offensive. It’s emblematic of the culture that WHOSE STREETS?, their searing documentary about the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson addresses. My first question to the pair, though, was about the quote that starts the film, and that provides important context for what will follow.
That includes how the media failed in its coverage of the events in Ferguson; turning residents of Ferguson into insurgents; the militarization of the police; the real definition of patriotism and the hypocrisy of the power structure; a salient comparison between that structure and the Star Wars universe; and how and why both language and images morph;
We finished up with that infamous soft drink ad; modernized blackface; how they worked within and without the system in order to get their doc made; the dialogue that the film has sparked; and what was for me the most moving line in the film.
WHOSE STREETS? is their doc about the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting by a police officer in Ferguson MI. It covers the one-year period from the shooting to the one-year anniversary of the non-indictment of the police officer who shot him, and is told from the perspective of the people in the community who have been spurred to action by the event. In the process, the film examines race relations in the modern era without sugar coating the depth of the problems, and by focusing on the human cost of not addressing them. Folayan has been an advocate at Riker’s Island and help organize the Millions March, one of the largest marches for racial justice in New York history, in response to the non-indictment of the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death. She is a 2015 Firelight Media Producers Lab Fellow, 2016 Chicken & Egg Accelerator Lab Fellow, and 2016 Sundance Institute Documentary Edit and Story Lab Fellow. Davis an award-winning interdisciplinary artist who works and resides in St. Louis, Missouri. His scope includes illustration, painting, printmaking, music, film, and public art. He is also a 2015 Firelight Media Producers Lab Fellow and a 2016 Sundance Institute Music and Sound Design Lab Fellow at Skywalker Sound.