I originally saw "If I Die Tonight" about a year ago at a screening inNew York (and recently on DVD). Aside from the provocative title, I wasintrigued by the subject matter. What immediately struck me about thefilm is that it takes the perspective from both sides of the issue ofpolice brutality in America. In-depth interviews with police officersare set along side the heartbreaking accounts from families who havelost loved ones in tragic encounters with the police in their owncommunities.
Though a few of the well-known cases are covered, like the now infamousAmadou Diallo case, the film also details some lesser known cases thatare just as shocking. Overall, however, the film delves into the largerissue at hand; why is there such a misunderstanding between the twosides? The film highlights the fact that there is a basic breakdown incommunication between the citizens of these poor and lower-middle classcommunities and the police who patrol them. It details the pressuresand responsibilities that police officers feel, as well as takes anin-depth look into how citizens view the police. The police are anintegral part of any community, but somehow, in far too many of thesecommunities, the connection has be lost. I couldn't help but see theparallels between soldiers who've fought in wars and spoken about howthey become so full of fear that they eventually start viewing everyoneas a possible enemy.
To some, police officers are unquestionable heroes who face anincredibly difficult job on a daily basis. To others, they areover-aggressive individuals with extreme power who enter a communitywithout any desire to understand the people they are policing. In theend, police officers aren't that much different than the rest of us;yes, many genuinely want to be of aid and service to their communities,but most do what they do for many different reasons: they enjoy thejob, they are good at it, and it provides a paycheck and a pension.Despite the risks, there has never been a shortage of people wanting tobe police officers (as thousands of applicants each year can attestto.)
What I found fascinating was the footage of people on the extremes whoseemed to be baffled why the other side felt the way they do,contrasted with more moderate voices who were trying to explain thosefeelings. Unfortunately, we now live in a society where the screamingvoices get the most coverage on the cable news programs, and it hasbecome far too easy to vilify and demonize anyone with an opposingpoint of view.
Fortunately, there are a few instances of real communication betweenthe police in the citizens in the film, which can give us hope for thefuture. The solution appears to be that an more open- discussionsshould be taking place between the two sides all over America, andunfortunately, it is not. This film may be a good place to start.
I watched your documentary and was very moved by it (of course I criedmost of the way through). A very unique way to present a documentary -without a narrator. Being Australian and living in Australia we don'texperience first hand the issues that you portrayed (that's not to saywe don't have our own fair share of issues to deal with over here) andso I began watching without prejudice. It was like riding a rollercoaster, and at first I sympathised with the victims and felt angrywith the law enforcers, then my sympathy went to the law enforcers andtheir families, etc, and then I was left with such a heavy heartbecause all were suffering. It must have been a very difficult task topresent the issue without favouritism, and most of all without beingable to formulate a solid or "neat" conclusion. My son began watchingit with me but had to race off to work half way through. Later he askedme, "how did it finish", all I could say was "it didn't finish".Hopefully one day you can create a documentary in which you will beable to present the solution. It seems there is still a lot of racialtension over there which adds another element to law enforcement. Ithink this tension causes people to react to situations in questionablemanners and once fear is added to the equation and adrenalin sets inthe unimaginable and unthinkable occurs. God help us.
I look forward to seeing more of your creations, I think the worldneeds such wake up calls.
Ignorance is NOT bliss. Many negative situations arise from ignorance.This documentary should be watched by all and used as a learning toolto stimulate much needed dialog.
Racial profiling is "morally indefensible" and the ongoing problem ofpolice brutality needs to be addressed. We must separate our support oflaw enforcement as the guardians of safety and order, from the abusersof the system. If we are to have a social justice system that works forall, we must ALL pay attention when it does not work for some,especially those in less empowered segments of society.
I become emotional each time I watch this film. It is heart wrenching,thought-provoking; the people real, the stories universal. I may neverknow what certain types of people in this country go through every dayand to be on the other side of the camera to document such accounts isunfathomable to me. But I do know it's been worth my time to watch andlearn. It is filled with such personal tragedy and hard-to-face facts.The filmmakers have cleverly portrayed the very difficult issue athand, empowering the viewer with information and hopes for thefuture it appears to be years of hard work in the making resulting in atimeless message.