From a mental issue, to a race problem. From a simple life, to activist leaders.
The Blood is at The Doorstep is not an arbitrary title; it is spoken in this thought-provoking documentary in a moment of peaceful protest by Nate Hamilton; younger brother of Dontre Hamilton, whose death and aftermath is explored by the Milwaukee-based filmmaker, Erik Ljung.
On April 30th, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was taking a rest in Red Arrow Park, right in front of a Starbucks, in the city of Milwaukee. Dontre was 31 years old when he was shot 14 times by Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney; and his death, was just the beginning of a life changing experience for Hamilton’s family.
Not too far from the Hamilton home, filmmaker Erik Ljung heard about the incident, and three weeks later he was with Dontre’s family, documenting their search for answers and justice.
Ljung then went on to spend the next three years alongside the Hamilton family. Chronicling their journey as they sought out justice for their lost son and their lives became more intertwined with a national movement taking place. For Dontre’s younger brother, who said he led a “simple life” before his brother was killed; the change meant becoming the founder and leader of the movement “Coalition for Justice.” As the film developed, we saw the conversation about Dontre’s death go from a mental health issue – the police claimed Dontre’s schizophrenia was the main cause that killed him – to a racial issue. When Michael Brown is shot dead three months later in Ferguson the search for justice intensified in Milwaukee, and the accusations for racial profiling by the police grew stronger.
“It’s stunning to me that there is not a social problem in America that can’t be solved by more training for the police.” – Ed Flynn
Erik frequently includes the voice of Milwaukee chief of police, Ed Flynn. He never accepted the racial argument for Dontre’s death; but he did illuminate a very real issue when he pointed out the irony in having the police be responsible for all of America’s historical issues.
The filmmaker found a way to give this film an honest look towards a very human issue happening in the country. The film was not propagandistic, nor was it angry. It made no attempt to be controversial. It was, in fact, a very fair approach to documentary, which allowed all sides to have a voice.
Ultimately, Eric Ljung’s first feature documentary looked at how the community was galvanized after the shooting, and how it attempted to find a place for healing among the chaos and growing tensions.
You can watch the trailer here!