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The Blood Is At The Doorstep’ Closes Human Rights Watch Film Festival On Sunday

Documentary looks to 2014 police shooting of Dontre Hamilton

Photo caption: "The Blood is at the Doorstep" looks to the aftermath of a police shooting of...

Photo credit: Erik Ljung

"The Blood is at the Doorstep" looks to the aftermath of a police shooting of an unarmed African American man in Milwaukee in 2014.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival opened Thursday night at the Museum of Photographic Arts. The festival closes on Sunday with Erik Ljung's documentary "The Blood is at the Doorstep."

Erik Ljung's film "The Blood is at the Doorstep" looks to the 2014 police shooting of Dontre Hamilton. The African-American man was shot 14 times by a white Milwaukee police officer. Ljung lays out the details of the shooting from as many angles as possible. He interviews witnesses, lets the police chief have his say and speaks with the Hamilton family.

The film is unique for getting to the story early and then spending years with the Hamilton family as they attempt to get gather all the facts of the case and to seek justice for Dontre’s death. Ljung shows that sometimes the struggle to resolve the case leads to rifts among the people supporting the Hamiltons and involved in organizing marches and protests.

Ljung listens in on the family, supporters and activists as they try to find the most effective way to keep the case in the public eye and to hold the police officer accountable for his actions.

One of the most effective moments in the film is when Ljung plays out the sound of 14 shots being fired. Even when fired in rapid succession we feel that the amount of time it takes feels long and that the number of shots seems excessive considering that Dontre Hamilton was unarmed. The officer claimed that he feared Hamilton was concealing a weapon and that he had been struck by him. But after the shooting, the officer showed no signs of having been hit with his own baton.

Ljung's willingness to let the film breath, to let those gunshots play out in real time, and to hold on interviewees for a few moments after they have stopped talking gives the film a sense of reflection amidst all the heated emotions. And it's in those moments where we feel the real emotional impact of the situation, to understand the family's sense of loss, and to consider what might have been going on in the officer's mind when he was confronting Hamilton.

"The Blood is at the Doorstep" is a compassionate and provocative documentary that provides a fitting close to this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival. It conveys the grief, anger, and frustration that people like the Hamiltons experience and how they try to turn those feelings into something productive in the hope of prompting real change.

A look at the rest of the film line up at the festival can be found in the guest blog by Rebecca Romani.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival opened last night at the Museum of Photographic Arts. The festival closes on Sunday with Erik Ljung's documentary "The Blood is at the Doorstep."

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