Dear Shaded Viewers,
A very bleak picture for the future of America.
I highly suggest you read Eric Kohn’s article on the current protests on the death of George Floyd. Here are a few excerpts but read the entire article.
How accurate are the comparisons being made between these protests and those of the Civil Rights era?
I think there are some things are close to it and some aren’t. I’ve always believed the Civil Rights movement needed Martin Luther King — but it also needed Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. That’s where we are today. It’s more of a Black Panther moment. Look, this wouldn’t have gotten the press coverage it did if people hadn’t started breaking and burning things. That is part of the press coverage. If there were peaceful demonstrations across the country, I don’t think it would have received the same kind of coverage. That’s just the reality. Obviously, there’s rage that many people have and one of the things that’s been surprising to me is the number of white people, Asian people, Latino people out there. It is not in any way just black people. In some cities, it looks like majority white people. I think young people are frustrated with the way this society is going and there’s no talk of equality or change from the federal government.
These days, everyone is a documentarian with the ability to record events on a phone. Has has that changed the state of documentary filmmaking?
It helps shine a lot on things to have citizen journalists. Look at the Black Panthers starting in 1966 because of police brutality. It wasn’t like there wasn’t any police brutality from then until 2010. We just didn’t have cameras. Now they’re everywhere. Imagine if that birder in Central Park didn’t have a camera. Imagine if there had been no camera on George Floyd. The cameras make all the difference. Our role as documentary filmmakers is to give it context, to give it some kind of history, to go a little bit deeper. The fact that citizens are using their cameras to record these incidents had made a huge change. If people hadn’t recorded the Floyd incident, people would have said he was resisting arrest.
Based on your experiences telling stories about the African American experience, how do you expect the next few weeks to go?
I don’t know, but I think one of the things that will happen from what I’ve seen in my filmmaking is this: When Emmett Till was murdered in the ‘50s, the kids who were his age — 14 or 15 or so — by ’61 or ’62, they became the Freedom Riders and other movements in the South. They were politicized as kids when they saw someone their age murdered. Now you have people in the streets who have also been politicized. I’m driving my kids back to New York against my own wishes, but they are insistent that they feel like they have to get out there, march, demonstrate. A whole generation of young people are politicized and they’ll be the next generation of the movement. Whether there’s a lull or not, the push for change will come back.