Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes


Director: Yance Ford
Producers: Yance Ford & Joslyn Barnes
Cinematography: Alan Jacobsen
Editor: Janus Billeskov Jansen
Composers: Hildur Guðnadóttir and Craig Sutherland
Distributors: Netflix
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Run-time: 107 minutes

FILM SYNOPSIS: In 1992, William Ford, Jr., a 24-year-old African-American man preparing to become a corrections officer, was shot and killed by a white mechanic during a dispute. The murder, for which the killer was never convicted, tore apart the Ford family, which still wrestles with their grief and anger decades later.

Yance Ford, the sister of the deceased William Ford Jr., delivers this documentary as a way of showing the atrocity that occurred to her brother and, as a result, her family as a whole. The best part of the documentary is the unique, personal touches, specifically in the displaying of the family photos. Instead of having them graphically added, they are placed on a table with a camera pointing at it and even the fingers moving the pictures are included. Sometimes the photos are not exactly centered and they are moved again. But this all comes off extremely personal, allowing one to imagine this person is literally welcoming you in their home and showing you their photo albums.

The story follows an all-too-familiar story line where a black man was killed in 1992 by a white man that shot him, and that man was never convicted. Now in most cases, you have some video evidence or proof along the way that this victim here was completely in the right and had no reason to be shot. But in “Strong Island,” it’s not so cut and dry. One of the detectives that is interviewed over the phone, who sounds completely diligent and apologetic, paints the picture of a formidable young man intimidating a local mechanic. Yes, the mechanic was the one who hit his car in the first place and yes, the mechanic insulted the victims mother, but when car doors are being lifted and threatening things are being said or done, a skittish mechanic who owns a gun could definitely be seen as defending himself. Is it messed up in general? Yes. But could I see a jury coming to the conclusion of self-defense… absolutely. Mistakes were made by both parties and unfortunately one of them ended up dead. I feel wholeheartedly that the same thing could have happened with two white men or two black men. If someone feels threatened for whatever reason, they could feel bound to protect themselves.

At the heart of the film, I do feel for this particular family. After their son died, the father had a stroke and the mother didn’t last much longer after that. That does pull at my heart. But not to the point of tears that “Last Men In Aleppo” had me. Apart from the family photos section, the film did not even feel like something unique, say like documentary front-runner “Faces Places.” On top of that, it doesn’t really change the way I think about something, say like “Icarus” and the Russians in the Olympics. So on that scale, it lands fairly close to the bottom of the pile for me. “Abacus” was at least something we had never really seen before and delved into a history-making court case. I feel for Yance Ford and her family and I’m glad she made this documentary to get the word out there about her brother, but ultimately this does not feel like an Oscar winner.



VIEWED: Saturday
February 3rd, 2018



Films Left Days Left

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