‘All These Sons,’ in a World Premiere at Tribeca FF
The World Premiere of All These Sons directed by Oscar-nominated Bing Liu (Minding the Gap) currently screens in Documentary Competition at Tribeca Film Festival. Also, the film is the feature debut of award-winning editor Joshua Altman. Accordingly, to catch this extraordinarily heartfelt work celebrating Tribeca’s twentieth year, make sure to screen it by 20 of June the festival’s end date.
One cannot help but become involved with the young men, their mentors and guides that Bing Liu shadows and interviews in this intimate portrait about two Chicago programs designed to help black communities. Uniquely dedicated to social and personal responsibility, the programs target the South and West sides of Chicago. And they particularly address gun violence. Bing Liu’s portrait is a timely and in depth perspective showing how individuals in these black communities work to re-educate, empower and heal young at-risk black men.
For decades Chicago’s gun and gang violence on the South and West sides garnered national headlines. Sadly, the terrible fact remains that the city government attacks the problem in a limited fashion. First they beef up the aggressive policing measures. Second, the police practice tough enforcement rules. Does police brutality occur? Of course as police use necessary force, sometimes ignoring excessive force which tips over into brutality. Unfortunately, abuses benefit no one. And they create divisions in an already wounded community.
By targeting those who have little opportunity to escape violent neighborhoods, the troubles circle and repeat. Violence never mitigates violence. Instead, it creates hopelessness. Indeed, oftentimes, such short-sighted plans exacerbate violence, a condition that brought Chicagoans to the current state of affairs.
Embedding themselves, Bing Liu and his team shadow two community members who introduce them to the troubled neighborhoods and the programs that help mitigate violence. Billy Moore of Iman and Marshall Hatch, Jr of Maafa, lead effective programs with tremendous effort, love and care. Throughout, filmmakers enlighten us to Moore’s and Hatch, Jr.’s backstory and the backgrounds of those under their care. Indeed, Moore and Hatch, Jr.’s lives qualify them for this work. Having once been on the other end of violence, they know the score and hold nothing back to win over those in their programs.
As the filmmakers view group sessions, personal counseling and interview Moore and Hatch Jr., we understand how Iman and Maafa create a safe space. Ironically, the at-risk youth constantly look over their shoulders for gang vengeance to knock on their doors. Drive-bys in violent neighborhoods kill the innocent and the guilty. Throughout the documentary, we understand that these young men have either killed, been in jail or have lost loved ones as the casualties of turf wars and revenge.
The documentarians approach their research revealing a flare for ethnography. Powerfully, the subjects show how they attempt to change the conditions that produce gun deaths. Thus, the programs select those young men most at risk of being a victim or perpetrator. Before their acceptance, participants must dig deep. Finally, examining their fears and justifications, the young men confront the traumas in their own lives that perpetuate violence.
When Bing Liu and Joshua Altman in cinema verite style follow Charles, Zay and Shamont as they confront their former identities to carve out new personas, we hook into the poignancy and humanity of the process. Realizing the benefit of their own honesty with themselves, participants thrive. Interestingly, they begin to make life-affirming choices. Of course, the daily fight requires they stick with the program and adhere to their mentor’s guidance. If they accomplish this difficult task, they will construct a better future for generations to come. Indeed, their hopefulness and sensitivity redefines and stops them from acting like violent stereotypes. Kudos to the filmmakers for their unfiltered, raw perspective of the participants’ stories. Bing LIu’s honest rendering reveals Charles’, Zay’s and Shamont’s vulnerability, authenticity and will to transform themselves.
All These Sons (a reference to Arthur Miller’s All My Sons) grabs one’s heart and emotions. Indeed, this occurs because Bing Liu and Joshua Altman allow us to hear and see these young men working hard against the cycle they could easily fall back into. Theirs remains a testimony for our time that change can happen. The filmmakers and all subjects in the film relay their powerful message with the faith that fewer may be lost than if the Iman and Maafa didn’t exist.
Finally, this documentary provides a viewpoint rarely seen. It focuses on its participants who speak their truth clearly, succinctly. As a result their bravery and courage to do the hard work of transformation shines.
All These Sons screens in the Documentary Competition category at Tribeca Film Festival 2021. Check for tickets and times by clicking HERE.