March 30, 2017
By Lapacazo Sandoval
Transgendered artist Yance Ford is angry and he has every right to be. In 1992 her brother, William Ford Jr., an innocent and unarmed Black man, 24 years of age was murdered by a “suspected killer,” a 19-year-old white man and was not indicted by a white judge and an all-white jury. To chronicle this injustice filmmaker Yance Ford made the powerful documentary “Strong Island” which has been described as “a memoir” of a true crime. A crime that leaves the viewer shaking their head is utter disbelief.
Netflix recently announced their acquisition of “Strong Island” which had its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and then went on to screen to great acclaim at both the Berlin and True/False film festivals and was screened, this month as part of New Directors/New Films, presented by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center. “Strong Island” will launch globally on Netflix and in limited theatrical release.
“Because Netflix is a global platform, Strong Island will be seen by communities around the world who are dealing with the issues that are unpacked on screen,” said Ford. It's my hope that this film will offer some a way to make sense of their own experience, and others a new way of seeing. Nothing comes close to describing how astonishing it is for me, that the world will in some measure come to know my brother.”
“Strong Island further highlights the scope of what kinds of stories can be told through documentary filmmaking,” Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming Lisa Nishimura added. “Yance Ford’s intimate re-telling of his family’s history of love, violence, and loss is filtered through such a personal lens that each shot captures the complexity of the film’s many intersecting threads of race, sexuality, class, and gender; yet the explosiveness of each of these topics in our current cultural conversation is undeniably wide-ranging.”
Here is a brief excerpt with director Yance Ford:
Q: Your brothers’s death was in 1992. The same year that four LAPD Officers were acquitted from their beating of the late Rodney King; an unarmed Black man. Did this have any impact on why you decided to make “Strong Island?”
Yance Ford: On the night that riots engulfed South Central Los Angeles, I sat in my college dorm room transfixed by the televised images, silent and awake. On April 29, 1992 four LAPD Officers were acquitted of the most serious criminal charges from their beating of Rodney King. The Defense made the argument that the videotape did not represent reality, that the jury could not believe their eyes, that “something else” had happened to justify the beating.
[Just] Twenty-two days before, my older brother had been shot and killed by a 19 year-old white man who claimed he fired in self-defense. William, who was unarmed, was described as “the nicest guy in the world, but then something would happen, something would come over him” and the police pursued a line of inquiry designed to characterize William as a menace.
Q: In the press notes when you are asked “why” you made the film you answered: “When I first began this film my goals were simple- uncover why my brother’s murder went unpunished and look at what injustice lived out over time had done to my family,” but I am asking you — now — why did you really make “Strong Island?”
YF: THIS IS WHY:
Officer Darren Wilson admits:
1) Michael Brown never tried to take his gun.
2) Michael Brown never tried to hit or grab the officer.
3) Darren Wilson grabbed Michael Brown without provocation.
4) Darren Wilson fired a second shot and missed Michael Brown as he was running away with his back to the officer.
5) Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in the face, and then shot again and hit the top of Michael Brown’s head.
6) Michael Brown did not reach for his waistband, his hands were up at his chest.
7) Darren Wilson fired 10 bullets at the unarmed Michael Brown.
8) Darren Wilson tampered with evidence by a) washing his hands of Michael Brown's blood; b) clearing his own gun; and c) bagging the gun.
9) Darren Wilson’s fiancee (at the time, now wife) was a Training Officer at the Ferguson Police Department, and assisted him in compromising the integrity of the evidence.
10) Darren Wilson has been formally disciplined for misconduct and accused of excessive force as an officer.
11) Darren Wilson has used racial slurs against black people.
Injustice thrives in silence and it was my job to destroy that silence.