So, after the Gotham nominations, I found out that three of the nominated films are currently streaming on Netflix, including I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, The Meyerowitz Stories, and a documentary called Strong Island. Using a random generator, I decided to watch Strong Island.
I honestly knew nothing about this documentary going into it, and it’s always interesting when I go into a film completely blind, with no preconceived notions. As a result, I ended up being completely stunned by this movie.
It tells the story of William Ford, a black man who was tragically shot, while his killer got to walk away without a trial. Of course, there have been plenty of documentaries about injustice towards African Americans. But it’s a topic that we need to acknowledge if we ever intend on fixing it, and this film takes a unique approach to the subject.
The film is directed by Yance Ford, William’s brother. It is told almost entirely by members of William’s family. As such, the film never comes across as trying to spread a broad message about inequality. Rather, it tells you the story of one particular instance of inequality told at a very personal level.
Yance Ford’s direction is simply sublime. He cleverly uses cinematography, personal items, and sound design to capture moments that were not filmed. And any time he speaks to the camera, he uses an uncomfortably close lens to great effect.
Now, I need to address something, When I was watching the film, I was not aware that Yance is transgender, mainly because the film doesn’t call attention to this fact. Yance mentions being queer and having a girlfriend, so I simply assumed he was a lesbian with short hair.
But with that being said, I do think it is a truly beautiful thing that such a great documentary has come from a transgender black man. and that the film itself doesn’t call attention to him being transgender because it simply isn’t important to the narrative.
I have yet to see any other documentaries from this year, but I truly hope that this film is shortlisted (at the very least) for the Oscar lineup. It’s not an easy film to recommend, as it is a very hard film to watch, but it is also greatly rewarding.
**** out of ****