Tag Archives: Documentary Review

“The Blood is at The Doorstep” Review

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.

Nate Hamilton leading a peaceful protest

 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

Ed Flynn being interviewed by the press

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!

Documentary Review: “Thank You For The Rain”

Good documentaries connect you with the world; they bring you another perspective, or perhaps transport you into the past.

Thank You For The Rain” takes us to a small village in Kenya, where Kisilu Musya is attempting to organize his community to become more empowered in the drought that faces them, by planting trees to bring in the rain.

Musya’s wife in Kenya. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

The documentary was directed by Julia Dahr, a Norwegian filmmaker who after meeting Kisilu, is drawn by his enthusiasm and drive to make a change. After asking Musya if she document him and his family for a month, she accepts an unconventional request: to share the camera with him. Kisilu is not exactly an experienced cinematographer, but through his lens, the message of the documentary is even clearer: the problem of climate change is not a theoretical one, it is an everyday man problem.

We begin by seeing Kisilu’s village facing a drought that is severely affecting farming; forcing other farmers in the community to seek other work. Kisilu’s family struggles with making ends meet, and his son is sent back from school because the tuition had not been paid. Despite the trouble, the farmer remains optimistic that the rain will come.

“Everything is being contradicted”

The village starts seeing signs of rain and are happily expecting the first teardrop. Soon the rain comes, and flood comes with it. Kisilu’s home loses its roof and trees fall due to the storm of rain. Yet, the farmer uses this obstacle to remove the apathy of his village towards climate change, and drive them to action by spearheading a tree planting campaign.

Kisilu Musya in kenya organizing his community. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

Through his activism, Kisilu gets invited to Norway, to speak among climate activists. Where he learns about the European lifestyle, sees snow for the first time, and is amazed at the living conditions Norwegians manage through such difficult weather. He goes back to Kenya with a new sort of enlightenment, with the idea of bringing European effectiveness and organization to his hometown. There, his activism becomes his sole purpose.

Shortly thereafter, the Climate Change Summit takes place in Paris, and Musya is thrilled to receive an invitation to speak at the United Nations where world leaders are making decisions. His initial excitement quickly turns to frustration when he realizes most leaders who are there to “fight climate change,” will only do something to fight the problem just as long as it does not interfere with their economic endeavors. Tensions are high in the climate summit, and disagreements between leaders result in a climate agreement that is disappointing to most climate activists. Especially Kisilu, who goes back to Kenya still determined to put in efforts every single day to improve his community.

Dahr perfectly captures the farmer’s strength and resilience of spirit; and the message is clear to anyone who loves this planet. Even if you go at it alone, you must put in effort every day to save it.

You can watch the trailer here!

Kisilu Musya at COP21 Summit about to speak in front of policymakers. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”