New Documentary, 'Whose Streets?' Shows a Different Side of Ferguson

A still from Whose Streets? by Sabaah Folayan. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A still from Whose Streets? by Sabaah Folayan. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.Lucas Alvarado Farrar, Autumn Lin Photography

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By John Mancini

Three years after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri sparked national outrage and ongoing countrywide protests, a new documentary, “Whose Streets?”, will give people the opportunity to view a different side of the story.

Directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, “Whose Streets?” offers a vulnerable look into the lives of residents following the death of Brown at the hands of former police officer Darren Wilson.

The film captures images from the point of view of the people who lived through the protest, gatherings and riots’ following Brown’s shooting. Amidst racial tensions, a police force under scrutiny and a city under siege by the National Guard, “Whose Streets?” brings to the forefront “counter coverage” of the events that took place.

The film aims to show how people stood together, resisted together and fought together in the name of love and justice for black people — not only in their city but around the world.

The casket of Michael Brown sits inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church awaiting the start of his funeral on August 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.Robert Cohen / Pool via Getty Images

The images and footage used in the film are not only from media reports and television programs, but also from the people who lived the story and are still experiencing the aftermath.

For Folayan, it was important to tell a true and authentic story — one that was being told by people living it and not by people watching it happen.

Related: Three Years After Michael Brown’s Death, Has Ferguson Changed?

“Historically black people have been the victims of an onslaught of media propaganda,” she said during a Q&A after a screening of the film in New York City. “Everything that we see is governed by white people who are deciding what images are going to come out and its so rare that it’s a favorable image of people who look like us. This was [an] opportunity to explore that and counter act it.”

Davis, who is a St. Louis native, echoed Folayan’s sentiments.

”What happened had to happen for us to be sitting here talking, but it’s the way people pitch things,” he said while sitting next to Folayan. “Some people are viewed as heroes and other people as villains. So from the beginning I just wanted to tell the story from where we stand.”

Poster for Whose Streets?Courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

The film follows activists, artists, teachers, parents and everyday people of Ferguson who share how their lives were transformed.

David Whitt, a Ferguson native and father, who was inspired to start a cop watch organization after the shooting, goes into the streets and records encounters with the police.

Related: Ferguson Security Video Renews Anger Over Michael Brown’s Death

Ferguson activists and co-founders of Millennial Activists United, Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton, organize candlelight vigils, peaceful resistant protests and can be seen chanting, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Ferrell also shares how her career was put on hold after the death of Brown to answer the call of activism for her community.

Activist Brittany Ferrell and crowd of protesters in the documentary film 'Whose Streets?'.Autumn Lin / Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

St. Louis Rapper Tef Poe, also becomes a prominent figure in the film as he uses his music as a platform to bring attention to issues that have affected the city.

“Whose Streets?” was not just made to give counter coverage of the Ferguson protests, but to give the citizens of Missouri a platform to reclaim their story.

The film debuts in theaters Friday.

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