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In the wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Baltimore was a city on the edge. Peaceful protests and destructive riots erupted in the immediate aftermath of Gray's death, while the city waited to hear the fate of the six police officers involved in the incident, reflecting the deep divisions between authorities and the community -- and underscoring the urgent need for reconciliation. Directed by Sonja Sohn (one of the stars of the HBO series The Wire), Baltimore Rising follows activists, police officers, community leaders and gang affiliates, who struggle to hold Baltimore together, even as the homicide rate hits record levels, and explores how to make change when change is hard. The strife that grips Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray exposes longstanding fault lines in a distraught and damaged community. Baltimore Rising chronicles the determined efforts of people on all sides who fight for justice and work to make their city better, sometimes coming ...
Fairly nuanced look at the fall-out from the 2015 Baltimore riots and looting
"Baltimore Rising" (2017 release; 95 min.) is a documentary about the rioting and looting which shook Baltimore following the arrest and subsequent death of Freddy Gray in curious/suspect conditions, and how the city tries to move beyond this. As the movie opens, we are introduced to a blighted neighborhood: "it's not the riots that caused this, it's the condition of the community that caused the riots", comments a Baltimore city council member. We then revisit the event of April, 2015.
Couple of comments: this is the latest film from actor-director Sonja Sohn (herself African-American). The initial part of the documentary, focusing on the events in April-May of 2015, are the hardest to watch, as there is so much senseless violence and pent-up anger and frustration in the African-American community, you can;t help but shake your head as you are watching it. Also, did you know that 3 of the 6 accused police officers are African-American? The movie finds its best footing in the aftermath. The Baltimore police reaches out to various leaders in the African-American community as the city awaits the trials of the police officers involved in the Freddy Gray events and the new police chief is desperate to avoid further rioting and looting, no matter what the outcome of the trials. A picture emerges of a segment in the African-American community that is eager to move forward and hence prepared to work with the police. "What can I do for you?", the police chief asks. "Jobs, bring us jobs", is the unanimous answer. Then there is another segment with the African-American community that will never be happy with anything, and instead looks at the rioting and looting as their "right" to protest. There are some startling moments in the film. Let me give you one example: at a certain point one of the social activists hands up a banner that reads 'BALTIMORE RISING" and one of the cops comes up and says "you have to take that banner down". When the activist asks: what law does this banner break", the cop is stumped and eventually mumbles "I don't know" (but the banner is still coming down), wow.
"Baltimore Rising" recently premiered as part of the HBO Documentary series, and I caught it the other day at HBO on Demand. While this documentary certainly isn't without flaws (it rambles a bit too much for its own good), I learned a thing or two from watching this documentary, and that's always a good thing. "Baltimore Rising" is worth checking out.
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