Gone but Not Forgotten
Strong Island, one of the most poignant and intimate documentaries Iíve ever seen, evokes a wide range of emotions. Itís a gripping offering by transgender filmmaker Yance Ford, whose brother was shot and killed about twenty years ago. So, of course, grief plays a major role here. But anger and love also come to the fore as Ford tries to find out what actually happened on that fateful night and why the shooter, a 19-year-old white mechanic, was never charged. Because their family had a longtime experience with racial discrimination, the talented African-American filmmaker canít help pondering how much racism contributed to this tragedy.
With great courage, Ford leaves no stone unturned in a search for the truth. And we become deeply involved in this personal journey. Using family photos, home movies and comments from members of the family, the brotherís friend and a coach -- as well as interviews with officials familiar with the case -- Ford puts together the events that took place and how things got out of hand.
Ford even questions his own personal actions as well as those of his late brother and lovely mother, which may have had some bearing on what happened.
Loss of a brother, son, or friend
causes grief that does not end.
If itís murder, how can you cope?
Justice it seems is your best hope.
But if that fails, what can you do
to prove what this man meant to you?
And if it involved racial hate,
could he have dodged his tragic fate?
These thoughts haunt you for many years.
So you decide to face your fears.
But finding answers to this case,
may reveal facts too hard to face.
Strong Island takes a brave approach
with mom, sister, friends and a coach.
We feel so sad at what they share.
A loss like this is hard to bear.
Besides being a compelling personal story, Strong Island takes on institutional racism and the justice system in a personal and serious way we should not ignore. How did a 24-year-old black man with a good reputation -- and who was just about to be employed in law enforcement -- end up dead as the result of an argument about a car?
With Strong Island, Ford brings his dear brother back to life and gives him the voice denied by a Grand Jury so long ago.
(Released by Netflix. Not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Strong Island, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.