RECAP on the Do Not Resist film screening:
Do Not Resist came highly recommended to us from a friend and board member at Deep Dish TV. Before even seeing it, I was hesitant for a couple reasons. First, practically, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to, because of screening rights fees. While DNR is not “mainstream”, it is under a distribution deal and won the Tribeca Film Festival for Best Documentary. Films under distro deals often charge high screening rights fees, which groups with tiny budgets (like ours) cannot afford. After a few months of back and forth, we were able to work out a free deal with the promise that any donations would be sent to them.
Second, the purpose of R4R has always been to provide accessibility to films that may not otherwise be seen (because they are truly grassroots and independent and do not have distributors, because they’re rare and hard to find, or because when you do find them there are fees associated with them, either for purchasing or screening). As filmmakers, we also understand the importance of paying people for their work. So any donations are always given to the filmmaker. Most of the films we’ve shown have been made by friends! This is encouraging for many reasons. That our friends are making such strong political work, through video, that their films are being seen in a collective environment and that the issues raised in them can be discussed afterwards in a critical way. I wasn’t sure how much DNR fit this mission, since it is a film that is somewhat accessible already (for purchase online) and not as hard to find as other films we’ve shown. I am glad we decided to show the film, though, and grateful that the distributors were generous in working out a free deal.
When viewing the film, the amount of screen time given to police was very disturbing to me. As a filmmaker, it is not a choice I would have made — to even talk to the police as much as the filmmaker did was unnerving for me as a viewer. Who wants to talk to the police at all? But also politically, I believe that it’s important to center voices of those who are most affected by systemic violence and oppression. So I wondered why this choice was made. And I also understood that Craig Atkinson, the director, was able to use his white male privilege to gain access to people and places others may not have been able to. This is positive in my view — if only that we learn how the “they” (the enemy) thinks, we learn their weapons and equipment, both physical and psychological so that can challenge them.
A thread circulated among the Paper Tiger Television collective, who plans these, and we decided to show the film but agreed that it needed to be presented from a radical abolitionist perspective. To contextualize the film in this way, speakers would be key. They always are, but especially in this case. We reached out to a couple groups doing boots-on-the-ground work around police brutality and accountability, folks we knew are non-reformists, abolitionists. Keegan Stephan and Elsa Waithe are both long-time activists in the Black Lives Matter movement, highly respected and truly indomitable forces. They provided greater context to the film, spoke about the NYPD specifically, and helped some of the less radical folks in the audience see what’s really happening and why the police are not here to “serve and protect” us but the ruling class.
Finally, introducing the film would be tricky, I thought. What to say? Did we really want to get into an academic documentary discussion of how and why and for what purpose we’re showing this? How the collective had some hesitations. I knew we’d get heat, as we should, if we did not make it known that we are in no way in agreement or sympathetic to the disgusting perspectives seen for the majority of the film. I thought the simplest, most direct thing would be to say just “know your enemy”. That’s it. If nothing else, if the film’s screen time and attention given to the police made folks uncomfortable, as it did me, to avoid the question of “which side are you on” and “why are you even showing this”, I thought that was appropriate. And I heard from one person after, that immediately made them more comfortable, that they knew they were in the right company.
It was truly amazing to see it with all of you there — the responses during the film were great. And the discussion afterwards was so sharp politically and I think useful to some folks who may still trust, or want to trust, that the police have their backs. They don’t. It’s not their job to. It never was. No amount of reform or training or hiring of more POC will change that the police are there to serve and protect the ruling class. That is their job. The more we recognize that, the more we can dig at the deeper issues that are underneath them.