The United States is currently in the midst of a national dialogue regarding racial profiling and police brutality; a dialogue triggered by the killing of Michael Brown in August of 2014. Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory goes to the frontline of this discussion, and offers invaluable insights from Ferguson residents for whom the burdens of discrimination and injustice are a daily fact of life.
People outside of Ferguson likely witnessed the aftermath of Michael Brown's murder, and the exoneration of the police officer who pulled the trigger, on television from the comfort of their homes. News reports were inundated with images of demonstrations, protests, looting and fires in the streets. From the outside, some people in the United States may have felt taken aback by the forcefulness of the outrage they were witnessing. But for many others who have experienced similar oppressions in cities across the country, these events were recognized as a justified battle cry for change and accountability.
These festering wounds are apparent from the opening minutes of the film, as Ferguson residents meet with local figures of government in a school gymnasium. The divide between the perceptions of those in charge, and the concerns expressed by citizens of color, could not be more profound. "You do not reflect the community that we live in," cries one mother to the largely white panel of officials. "Can you fathom your babies getting gunned down?"
The culture of racism in Ferguson, as it's portrayed in the film, is not always as obvious as a bullet from an officer's gun; it's often hidden in plain sight. It's apparent in the revenue hungry court systems where arrest warrants outnumber citizens by 10,000, the vast majority of which are issued to people of color. It expresses itself in the stories of one father who bemoans being pulled over by the police at least three times every month.
In addition to offering a searing commentary on the contributing factors behind the unrest in Ferguson, the film also pays tribute to the growing movement which is currently sweeping far beyond the city's borders. Protestors from all walks of life are joining together in record numbers, and are seeking to dismantle a system that they believe remains influenced by the residue of slavery.