Vino Vérité series presents Do Not Resist
FilmScene — Sunday, Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Social Exchange/Vino Vérité screening of Do Not Resist presented by Bread Garden and Little Village
FilmScene — Monday, Jan. 9 at 12:00 p.m.
The new documentary Do Not Resist (2016) will offer film-goers an uncompromising view of the ongoing militarization of America’s police with a special screening and conversation with the filmmakers at FilmScene in Iowa City on Jan. 8.
Do Not Resist examines the rise of the “Warrior Cop” and its traumatic effect on local communities. Police departments across the country have been equipped with armored vehicles, armed with military-grade weapons and trained in lethal tactics to execute raids and arrest civilians. The battle cries from law enforcement trumpeting “the War on Drugs” and “the War on Terror” have been used to justify warrantless searches, racial profiling and exercising deadly force. To many, the police badge has become the ultimate shield against personal or institutional accountability from those who enforce the law.
Filmmaker Craig Atkinson started filming Do Not Resist, his directorial debut, over a year before the events in Ferguson, MO in the fall of 2014. Atkinson’s father was a police officer for 29 years and a SWAT Team commander for 13, providing him personal insight into how police departments have drastically changed over the past few decades. His father conducted a total of 29 search warrants during his SWAT Team years (1989-2002). “Compare that to today,” Atkinson wrote in his public statement on the film’s website, “when departments of similar size we filmed conducted more than 200 a year.”
“We noticed a trend in early 2014 of police departments being solicited by technology companies offering new tools to help alleviate dwindling operating budgets and loss of personnel,” Atkinson continued. In an interview for the Build Series at AOL headquarters in New York City last September (see above), Atkinson said he made the film in response to what he saw as a “drastic change” in the weapons, the vehicles and, perhaps most importantly, the tactics being deployed by domestic law enforcement in post-9/11 America. Given his background, Atkinson is not one to demonize police officers or their work. However, he does not fall into the trap of turning them into super-heroes or their mission into a crusade. He offers audience members a sobering glimpse of the potential violence and corruption when such actions are driven by the quest of profit instead of justice.
The scenes presented in the film, sometimes in graphic detail (at least emotionally), allow the viewer a closer look at a world they often only read about in news headlines on their smartphones, at a safe distance away from the action. The events captured on film can happen on the streets of America’s largest cities or in the quietest residential areas of Smalltown, U.S.A.
Some of the issues raised in the film, most of which are slowly creeping into mainstream consciousness thanks to a rejuvenated social justice movement in the age of social media, have been witnessed in Iowa’s own backyard.
The Nov. 1 shooting of Jerime “Danky” Mitchell, 37, by Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones has aroused a loud response from the community over the incident, which left Mitchell (who was unarmed) paralyzed as a result. A Linn County grand jury did not indict Jones, even though critics from the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP and other groups pointed out the discrepancies between the official story provided by the County Attorney’s office and the police dash-cam footage released to the public.
While the film focuses more on the militarization of the police, activists have been quick to point out the issue of racial disparity when it comes to policing, which provides an additional (not to mention sinister) dynamic to an already alarming situation.
According to the December, 2016 edition of the Defender, the newsletter of the Iowa branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Iowa has the second-worst rate of racial disparities in arrests” for drug possession in the nation. “A Black person in Iowa is about 7 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than a white person in the state, even though studies show that the two races use illicit drugs at roughly the same rates,” the Iowa ACLU reported.
Americans are slowly recognizing the emergence of a high-tech police state, seeing it as a reality rather than a dystopic future depicted in a science fiction movie (think Minority Report). Do Not Resist is a documentary feature, meaning that is non-fiction, yet much of the footage captured is rife with suspense, horror and human drama that will leave many viewers stunned with disbelief, leaving many to secretly wish what they are watching is fiction. The truth, as the adage goes, is much stranger.
Atkinson has worked on a number of award-winning films as a cinematographer, editor and producer. Do Not Resist reflects Atkinson’s technical expertise by allowing the image to help convey the story, an effective journalistic and cinematic gesture that is often lost in the age of talking heads dictating talking points based on faulty reasoning. This would help explain why the film was named the Best Documentary feature at the Tribeca film festival last year. As noted by the Hollywood Reporter in its review of the film, it is an experience “best had in the cinema.”
Do Not Resist is the ninth selection of the Vino Vérité series, co-presented by Bread Garden Market, Little Village and FilmScene. The Vino Vérité series has been showcasing filmmakers who present what the website calls “thought-provoking, chance-taking, and visually arresting films” since 2015. To help spark the conversation following the film’s screening, Atkinson will be joined by producer Laura Hartrick to start a dialogue on how to respond to these issues outside the movie theater.
Tickets to the event are $20 for FilmScene members, $20 for the general public. Vino Vérité events include a wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres starting at 6:30 p.m., the film screening at 7:15 p.m., and a dessert reception with the filmmakers at 8:45 p.m.