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concordia 13/11/2017 - 12:00PM

WHOSE STREETS? screening at Concordia, an emotional and fierce event

WHOSE STREETS?: A Discussion with Sabaah Folayan

Hundreds of audience members packed CP Concordia’s H-110 venue to near capacity on Monday, October 23, to watch the Quebec premiere of Sabaah Folayan’s WHOSE STREETS?, resulting in the best attended screening of the semester to date. After an emotional and exuberant standing ovation, Folayan honoured the crowd with an inspiring and fierce Q&A, which was led by Montreal journalist, activist, and documentarist Will Prosper. Prosper mediated the open floor question period where Folayan discussed her experience making the film, of being in Ferguson when tensions were at their highest, the importance of self care in social movements, the need to foreground love, and the importance for Black folks to take space and for all to accept Black leadership. 

WHOSE STREETS? follows the unfolding fight for justice and for black and racialized people to live following the shooting and killing of unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in St. Louis, Missouri. The crime served as a catalyst for the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, a form of black resistance unlike any before it. As the Ferguson rapper Tef Poe exclaims, “This ain’t your daddy’s Civil Rights Movement.” The change in activism is largely a technological one and is reflected in the filmmaking itself. Folayan and Co-Director Damon Davis use a combination of intimate interviews, embedded tweets, news reports and actual footage of the protests (and the violent response to them) taken by themselves and others. We are shown multiple perspectives and because of this, it also becomes clear in ways that are often chilling, just how different and often incompatible many of these perspectives are. Take, for example, the news media using footage of looting to portray the protests as violent and unorganized when, really, any and all violence was incited by the police and their military response to peaceful protests.

Folayan documents the residents of Ferguson as they reclaim their streets by occupying them, demanding justice by marching and creating roadblocks. These peaceful acts of resistance are received by the state in outrageous disproportion. A clear demand for fundamental human rights is quickly met by the National Guard, who arrive fully uniformed with batons, shields, tanks, tear gas and other illegal military weaponry—a fitting illustration of the very thing that was being protested: police brutality. This stark moment of racially targeted state violence makes abundantly clear Missouri’s and the United States’ assertion and aggressive maintenance of a white supremacist social structure. The misrepresentation of the Black Lives Matter protests in mainstream media, as well as in the court of law, also reflect immensely harmful and pervasive attitudes in Ferguson and beyond.

Folayan features Brittany Ferrell, a queer Black woman at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement, her partner, and their daughter in the film. "It is Black women and Black queer women who largely uphold the movement,” Folayan told the CP audience, stating that “Wherever anything is happening, women are making it happen.” The end of the documentary shows her daughter following her mother’s footsteps, vocalizing their well-rehearsed chant into the mic: “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.” As Folayan made clear in the Q&A, WHOSE STREETS? is a film about love. It is a film that expresses love for human beings. It makes clear that the drive, really, behind every powerful social movement, every protest, is the fight for the right to love, and be loved in return.

Closing the event, Will Prosper commented, “It only seems fair that Sabaah Folayan should have the last word.” It only seems fair that Folayan should have the last word here, too. Indeed her closing words matched the power of her film: “We spend a lot of time thinking about what we want, what we want to do, how we can be leaders, what we can start, and I think that, especially since I see a lot of white people in the audience, we can put just as much thought into who can we follow, who do support, who do we lend a hand to and how can we be of service to others.” 

Join Cinema Politica Concordia in collaboration with RIDM on Monday, November 13th, 7pm, in room H-110, for the Montreal premiere of NOWHERE TO HIDE ( - A visceral account of war-torn Iraq, told by Iraqi nurse Nori Sharif, who excels in his efforts to capture the tragedy and perseverance around him, also in collaboration with RIDM. The evening will be hosted by leading Iraqi-Canadian musician, actor and multimedia artist Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman!


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