Magnolia Pictures Acquires Ferguson Uprising Doc, ‘Whose Streets?’

By Sameer Rao Feb 08, 2017

Film distributor Magnolia Pictures has acquired the North American distribution rights for the new Ferguson uprising chronicle, "Whose Streets?"

Deadline reported on the acquisition yesterday (February 7). Magnolia plans a theatrical release this summer to coincide with the third anniversary of 18-year-old Michael Brown‘s death at the hands of White ex-Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson.

The documentary, which premiered January 19 at the Sundance Film Festival, takes an on-the-ground look at how Brown’s 2014 death and Wilson’s grand jury acquittal galvanized widespread local action against police violence in Black communities. "Whose Streets?" embeds within the uprising as activists and residents demand justice during actions countered by militarized police. Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, who make their feature film debut with this documentary, elaborated on its Black community-centered point-of-view in a joint statement

Every day Americans experience a mediascape that humanizes Whiteness, delving into the emotional lives of privileged White protagonists while portraying people of color as two-dimensional (and mostly negative) stereotypes. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the case of Mike Brown, who, in spite of being college-bound & well-regarded by his community, was portrayed as a "thug" and a "criminal." For this reason, it is essential that Black people be the ones to tell our own true stories.

Ferguson has experienced media colonization since [Brown’s death on] August 9th; as all eyes turned to the protests, the grand jury and the response to the non-indictment, people became desensitized by the scenes of chaos. The image of Mike Brown’s tragic final moment, pants low, one shoe strewn across the street, became a meme. The victim, a young boy with a bright future, became an object of discussion—subject to apathy,  judgment and even ridicule, but rarely compassion.  The dehumanization of Mike Brown was perpetrated by his murderer, perpetuated by the media and reinforced by violent police repression of his community. This was a modern day lynching.  

We are intimately aware of how we are portrayed in the media and how this portrayal encourages both conscious and unconscious racial bias. We are uniquely suited to make this film because we ourselves are organizers, activists and we are deeply connected to the events of August 9th and beyond. We are making this film, in part, as tribute to our people—our deeply complex, courageous, flawed, powerful, and ever hopeful people—who dare to dream of brighter days. This is more than a documentary…this is a story we personally lived. This is our story to tell.  

Magnolia’s president Eamonn Bowles called the film a "critically important statement for these times" and "an indelible work of art" in a statement to Variety. Magnolia also distributed Raoul Peck‘s James Baldwin doc, "I Am Not Your Negro," which is currently nominated for the best "Documentary (Feature)" Academy Award.