User Reviews (37)

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  • abdallahoc-6159319 September 2017
    The whole point of this documentary is to humanize the victim and show the viewers the human side of this story. It just baffles me how some people here couldn't grasp this simple emotional-based point. We do need more of this kind of documentaries for us to feel each other's pain.
  • I wanted this to be The Thin Blue Line. It wasn't. That's a pretty high bar for a doc. I was probably being unfair. But I was disappointed. The families rage at the murder of their son/brother came through. But the story of what happened didn't. It just felt like rage. Understandable, but not what I want in a doc.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was an almost 2 hour documentary which gave very little insight to the crime. I am sorry for the agony these folks have gone thru and can understand the need to tell their story but this was not something I would recommend to my friends and family. The movie was long drawn out with too much personal feelings and over causing and slow dialogue and no real substance. I couldn't watch the entirety of this and to fast forward just to get to the end.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Anybody who has read the synopsis knows this documentary is about the killing of young black man by a white man who was never convicted of his murder. It's the story of a family and friends still dealing with the grief, the loss and most of all, the injustice and inability to do anything about it. It's heartbreaking and their strength in dealing with the injustice is to be admired.

    The outcome of a white man walking free for murdering a black man in 1992 is hardly surprising and it should give everyone pause that it's still not surprising today, 25 years later.

    It's not an easy film but it's a worthwhile film.
  • chrisharrey20 September 2017
    Unfortunately this was painted to be a compelling story of mis-justice that was then solved or at least contested but it was nothing more than a diary or almost autobiography of someone we'd never heard of. The constant reference to Racism in the families past was almost building up to some sort of mis-justice due to race or color but that didn't seem to be the case. There was parts talking about the struggle of coming to terms with sexuality and growing up which seemed completely irrelevant to the confusing story line that zigzagged at the speed of a snail. Don't get my wrong its a sad story, no one should be murdered and no one should have to deal with a death in family but I just couldn't help but feel this documentary was almost the director/producers way of dealing with it rather than it shedding any light on a given subject. This was almost a professionally shot YouTube video certainly not fit for mainstream Netflix.
  • bijou-214 February 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    Slow, prodding, and full of false assumptions. This lazy documentary is full of repetitious and false narratives that never make it's point. Character after character repeats themselves in slow boring detail, while adding nothing to the narrative. Was he a good man? Yes, he was a good man. Pause..., pause..... He was indeed a good man. He was a very fine good man. Pause....snore, wait, ... He was so good. He was pause, pause, pause .......good. He did some good things....he did not help rob the ATM man. That was never proven....

    He was my brother and by the way, he was a good man, except when he was throwing vacuum cleaners and car doors around in order to threaten others. I admired him then... pause. My bad.... pause...........Oh, and by the way, I am a lesbian and he was nice to me, so there!?

    Did the main character, a 260 pound overweight black male, scare a chop shop white criminal into shooting him dead in self defense after being assaulted once before? I was not on the Grand Jury but, after seeing this film, I would would say "yes!".
  • zuhhreenuhh11 August 2019
    This documentary turned out to be nothing more than people talking way too much. And the sister my God she was so annoying. This was terrible.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While being a well made and emotionally charged documentary, I completely failed to see the racial injustice in the story. A white man killed a black man, that much is true. However the testimony of his best friend who was present, the detective, and even the maker of the documentary, clearly state that the deceased had twice confronted the accused in an aggressive manner, causing the fear necessary for a clear case of self defence. I am fully aware that instances of racial injustice are an everyday occurrence in the U.S, however the only way you will see one in this film is if you want to.
  • The documentarian does waayyyyy too many really close up face shots while she's talking into the camera It was so cringey. The story was not compelling enough for me to continue watching or get through the weird close ups.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Just my random thoughts after watching it.

    First, I wanted to like this movie, but man, was it awful. It was way too slow, i.e. boring. It had a problem figuring out what the movie was about. It constantly digressed from what I thought it was about, i.e. the investigation of a "unjust" murder.

    Instead, they on and on about how they grew up, what they ate, how much they loved each other. It didn't help they spoke in melodramatic slow tone. Once you think the set up of who the family is, is over, they go back and basically repeat it.

    The problem is having a family member make a movie about an emotional topic that hit close to their home, but very few others care about.

    They go back to how racism in the south decades earlier, despite it having no affect on this particular killing. This movie should have been about the murder and IF it was unjust, show it. We hear nothing from the other side, so imagine OJ making a documentary about the killing of Nicole and Ron and imagine how that would go.

    She calls the detective and he says he will get back to her when he finds out more, and then right after, she already concludes why he wasn't indicted.

    The bottom line I got from this. White people are racist and black people are victims. That was the theme throughout.

    There is nothing worse than watching a film where I am suppose to feel bad for the victim, but I am instead annoyed and have very little sympathy.

    You kinda get a sense from the opening what you are dealing with as the DA seemed really annoyed with Yance Ford, that she may have been a pain in the butt.

    Just a bunch of unrelated stories. That movie had no focus. It felt angry and a LOT of "feelings expressed" that never matched any evidence.

    It was self defense, much like so may cases where race is blamed for the killing. This could have been 20 minutes long.

    Save your time.
  • "Strong Island" is one of the worst documentary features I have come across in many years. Yance Ford, a transgender, has credentials: He worked as a series producer at PBS for ten years; he was named one of Filmmaker magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film; he was also the recipient of a Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellowship. And he produced and directed this movie which is about as personal a film anyone could ever make, a film investigating the 1992 murder of his brother, William Ford. Or, at least, that's what it was purported to be about.

    Amateurishly edited, and without coming to anything remotely resembling a point, the film has close-ups of family members slowly speaking in annoying monotone, rambling on in various digressions: references to racism that seemed haphazard; discussing what they like to eat; the difficulty in coming to terms with sexuality; how their family loves each other - anything it seems except the murder investigation. It is completely without focus, mostly boring, and consequently hard to sit through. Even worse: The filming seems so contrived, and the interviewees so obviously 'trying to act,' that it sometimes seems like a mockumentary instead of a documentary. It's bad, there's no other way to say it.

    I try to ask myself how a talented filmmaker could make a documentary so sophomoric and continuously uninteresting, and I come up with nothing. But I don't blame Yance Ford because I assume he tried to do something different and merely fell on his butt. What I DON'T understand is how the Academy of Arts and Sciences could seriously nominate a stinker like this for Best Documentary Feature. Weren't there better documentaries around? Even your iPhone home movie is bound to be better than "Strong Island"!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Strong Island, a documentary chronicling the 1992 murder of first-time filmmaker Yance Ford's brother, William Ford Jr., and the effect it had on him and his family, incorporates the dynamics of a police-like procedural and gut-wrenching, upfront, self- confession. Ford grew up as a woman but more recently transitioned as a man. His transgenderism is not central to the story but (as is the case with all members of the Ford family), adds to the overall verisimilitude of the narrative, highlighting a distinctive individuality.

    Ford presents the family history in a highly effective, novel way. Instead of projecting old snapshots on the full screen, the actual photos are presented by Ford in his own hand against a white backdrop, and then scooped up as various narrators relate the story behind each image.

    Central to the narrative is Ford's mother, Barbara Dunmore, who was interviewed over a number of years, prior to her death (Ford's unflinching presentation doesn't shield us from viewing the mother, even when she's emaciated, lying on her deathbed). Dunmore proves to be a fascinating and tragic figure—a long time teacher who later became a principal at Thomas Jefferson HS in Brooklyn and then worked on Riker's Island educating female inmates.

    We learn from Dunmore how the family moved to the black enclave of Central Islip on Long island, mainly designed for upwardly mobile, black civil servants. Dunmore hated being there as it was a segregated community. She relates how her husband, William Ford Sr., took a job as NYC subway motorman--ultimately it's the effect of their son's death that left them (as well as their two daughters) reeling. Soon after the son's death, the father had a stroke and never really recovered.

    As we learn more about the victim, it becomes clear that his death is an unimaginable tragedy. Ford reads excerpts from his brother's diary and we learn he had applied to become a NYC Correction Officer. There are interviews with two former Kings County Assistant District attorneys—one of whom was a shooting victim in Brooklyn. It was William Ford Jr., a year before his death, who tackled the man who shot the ADA and held him until the police arrived.

    All this takes us to the most riveting aspect of the film: the circumstances of William Ford Jr.'s death. From Yance Ford's point of view, his brother was the victim of an injustice based on racism. I would have to agree there was injustice here but am not completely sold that everything that happened was solely due to racism. It's completely understandable why Ford and his family would feel that way, and I certainly don't fault him for having those feelings.

    Nonetheless, the facts of the case point to a different explanation. It's hard for the filmmaker to acknowledge that her brother used very poor judgment when he took his car to a chop shop to be repaired after the people who ran the shop were the ones responsible for the accident that damaged his car. The driver, 19 year old Mark Reilly, had assured William that the car would be repaired quickly but after a few weeks dragged on, it became clear that either Reilly and his associates had no intention of fixing the car or were simply dragging their feet. Reilly had some choice words for William's mother when she went down to the shop to make the needed inquiries—and those words were basically curses that William got wind of.

    William later went down to the shop with a friend and had some choice words of his own for Reilly and the shop's owner. Yance Ford only reveals this later on but William was quite angry, threw a vacuum cleaner to the ground and picked up a car door, and assumed a menacing stance for a short time. So when William and his best friend came back on the night of April 7, 1992, it was his intention to pick the car up; unbeknownst to William, the car had already been picked up by his mother. William told the shop's owner that if he ever became an officer, he would see to it that the shop was closed down. Seconds later, he entered the shop where he was shot by Mark Reilly.

    Was William shot because he was black, or as Reilly later told the grand jury (who ultimately refused to indict) because he feared for his life? It's instructive to look at the 2006 case of homeowner John Harris White, a black man who was confronted by a mob of teenagers who had a beef with his son, outside his house. Like William Ford's killer, White didn't call 911. In this case, White went outside his home and ending up shooting a 17 year old white teenager in the face, killing him. Unlike in the Ford case, there were many witnesses to the shooting, and White was convicted of manslaughter but was only sentenced to 2-4 years in prison. This outraged the victims' parents. To add insult to injury in their eyes, White was pardoned by outgoing Governor Patterson in 2010.

    Both Reilly and White argued that they feared for their life. Was racism a factor in each case or fear? The bottom line is that both of these individuals had guns for self- protection, but used their firearms instead to kill innocent people, after misreading the intentions of their victims. I would argue it's the gun culture that led to tragedy in each case, not necessarily racism.

    Strong Island is a must-see documentary which chronicles a family tragedy in a highly original, creative way. There is perhaps no better argument for gun control than this illuminating work of art!
  • Watched about 20 minutes of this and all it was telling me was a history of US racism. I thought this was supposed to be about a miscarriage of justice. Very misleading
  • Pros: Well shot, cool aesthetics.

    Cons: Basically everything else.. Very confusing plot, very slow moving and boring. Lots of racist tones.

    Wouldn't suggest watching it..

    Especially if you're like and have to finish whatever you start even if it's painstakingly slow and fairly annoying..
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Here are the fact of the case: Reilly insulted William Ford's mother. William then made threats against Reilly, trespassed into Reilly's shop and started vandalizing his property. Reilly then took out his legally-owned gun and shot William, killing him.

    I couldn't help but think of Dave Chappelle's skit about when keeping-it-real goes wrong. If William had taken a moment and said "I'm a grown man, I have a lot to lose with a terrific loving family that would be devastated if anything happened to me", and decided to just walk away then he would be alive today.

    Yance even adds a scene where William's friend said, "We used to cruise from town to town all the time looking for trouble." Why would you put that line into the movie if your goal is to vindicate your brother?

    While I honestly feel sorry for the entire family, the Fords come across like they're taking refuge in the "all white people are racists" mindset as a way to cope. It seems Yance was trying to get the last word in this matter by making this film. A better lesson to take away from this is that the street-tough hood mentality can be self-destructive and not an excuse to break the law.
  • kenyae-cagle17 September 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    Just watched "Strong Island" and I loved and hated it. It talks about the stories of family members who went through racism and have died from the ignorance of people who thought what they were doing was correct. This documentary makes me thankful I wasn't around in the time of more intense racism that beats African Americans down, because with the personality I have I feel I would have been killed already. But it was deep to hear the stories of these people. I loved it for talking about the history, but hated it because there was time like this.
  • aldoo-lim11 November 2020
    30 minutes in and i got the gist..a black person got into a white person place of work uninvited wanting to get "revenge" for bad mouthing said black person's mom..whit person feels threatened and shot the black person..i'm neither black or white..but if someone no matter the race come to where i live / work because i said something abt his mom..yea i'll feel threatened and will defend myself..this has nothing to do with race..you don't go wanting to beat someone up because u're verbally insulted..that's assault
  • matthewssilverhammer6 March 2018
    4/10
    Meh
    I believe in black lives matter, white privilege, systemic racism, the injustice with which black men are treated...and I still don't like this decent looking, well-intentioned, but overtly manipulative doc.
  • Okay, it would be a stretch to label this as underrated. It was nominated for a best documentary Oscar and received a good deal of acclaim from the critics at least. But on IMDB it's got a surprisingly low user score, as well as not nearly the number of votes it deserves. It's on Netflix and therefore likely buried under so many other true crime documentaries, but it's easily one of the better ones. It's maybe the best film of this sub-genre I've seen since the absolutely heartbreaking 'Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father' from 2008.

    The emotional impact of Strong Island is similar to Dear Zachary. Maybe not in exactly the same manner, but it hits hard and seems explicitly designed to provoke strong emotional reactions from its audience. It's an achingly, almost uncomfortably personal story about director Yance Ford recounting the circumstances of his brother's death, way back in the early 1990s, interviewing the people who knew him best as well as effectively interviewing himself in parts. It was a risky move, becoming more than a narrator, though not in the occasionally grating way that Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock often do in their documentaries. What Ford does here feels more honest, and much braver. Those other two often have an ironic, 'hip' sort of detachment to what they're talking about, but Ford doesn't hold back at all. It's confrontational, even at times to the audience, and maybe that's turned some people off. But I found myself respecting the decision. Ford talks about things in a way that 99.9% of people would be too afraid to, and when the subject matter is as serious as it is here, it's more than understandable.

    It's not a fast-paced movie, but I wouldn't call it slow, which is a common and somewhat confusing criticism I've seen on here. The running time felt just about perfect- not too long, but not too brisk, and even if you find yourself restless here and there, it's worth it for the stunning last couple of scenes; particularly the very ending, which left me with a sizeable lump in my throat.

    There isn't a whole lot to criticise. I loved how stark the first 20 or so minutes felt with no music of any kind, but eventually a fairly traditional score is utilised, and while the music isn't bad, I really liked the empty, gut-wrenching feeling that the music-free atmosphere conjured up. Maybe some people will call this documentary biased too, but that didn't bother me. It's as much an exploration of grief- and how a tragic event can tear apart a family- as it is a critique and expose of the flaws in the justice system. Even if you're not moved by the story of what happened to Ford's brother, or convinced that his killer wasn't acting in self-defence, the film is potentially even more compelling as a recounting of what happened to the people who knew him after his sudden death. If you're not at least a little saddened by learning of how his parents coped with his passing, or hearing about how close he was to achieving a dream job of his before his sudden death, then I'd be honestly shocked.

    Strong Island is a sometimes slowly paced, often very challenging film, that may or may not be too confrontational or 'biased' for some people's tastes, but I thought it was excellently constructed and emotionally powerful. I want to recommend it to as many people as I can, because I think that while it isn't perfect, it says a great deal about so many things, and has a very bold and compelling way of doing so. And as a movie that's now on Netflix, you've really got nothing to lose beyond about 107 minutes, and I can all but guarantee that if you go in with an open mind, you'll find at least something to respect or be moved by within that runtime.
  • blackdiamond1-120 January 2020
    So slow. Fast forwarded to the part where they actually talk about what happened. They spent most of it talking about useless info that you don't need to know and care even less about. Just kept wanting for something to happen that never did.
  • brookistine10 September 2019
    This documentary, I feel, is very important to watch. So often, we see crime shows or read the news, and you just hear about the "murder victim". Maybe you hear about that person that lost their life, maybe you make your assumptions about them, and maybe you move on with your day. You don't hear about WHO that person was, and what an actual loss it was. My uncle was murdered, and it's just salt in the wound when you read articles about it and he is just a "victim". Not a baby in his mother's belly, not a happy, playful toddler, and a cool older brother.. not a smart, talented, loving human.. just a victim. This documentary is important for more reasons than even I can understand. I implore others to watch it, and hopefully come out the other side a little more thoughtful and aware.
  • eileencarlson15 August 2018
    Although this film moved slowly, I found the story to be compelling. The director,s brother is killed by someone with whom he has only a sketchy history. The facts of the case were vague which increased the bad feelings in the family, but the father,s hopelessness from the start is heart breaking. To a white person, the race factor is a point of contention, but we don,t know what it's like to have to better, brighter, than someone of a different race just to be in the running. Racial bias in the U.S. Is a daily occurrence for people of color. We don.t see it because we don't experience it. Try being a woman in a man's job or gay for a day in a straight workplace, then you'll have a taste of discrimination.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Strong Island' clearly divides people. I don't think it's as bad as some make out, but rather a touchingly honest and reflective account of how a family unravelled in the aftermath of a tragedy. References are made to the racism of the incident and possible implications in the investigation. I don't know enough about the case, and I don't think the intention of Yance Ford was to take it apart and contest it, although there were references to flaws in the justice system. The mother's account of the covert racism in the courts was quite powerful but in my opinion didn't 'fit' with the overall message of the film.

    Rather, Ford's account of her brother's killing and the events following it focuses on human-level tragedy rather than criminal justice (lack of) and social motives ... the phone scenes are jaw-dropping, actually, see the film for yourself ...
  • Moving and incredibly honest portrayal of The Ford family's tragedies resulting from racial segregation. Some questions left unanswered: Who was Lesline and did the family get the car back.

    Any mother raising sons prays to get through that difficult period from 14 or 15 to full maturity. This exemplar American family almost made it.

    But local corruption put a monster in its path: the corrupt Datre family, and the cops they owned. How could a grand jury not return a true bill for mot murder but manslaughter if the fix was not in or the jury was not dominated by racists?

    Why should one stupid outburst of anger negate justice for a young man who risked his life to apprehend a mugger? Was this testimony included about William's last day?

    Very thought provoking.
  • Racism is still big and not just in America. But with all the movements going on, there is a certain spotlight on it. Not to mention the current POTUS, who whatever you think of him, has divided and is dividing people as we speak (or rather as I write). But this isn't about Republicans or Democrats, it's about a tragic family story.

    It may not strike a chord with everyone, but watching some of the interviews you don't have to feel bad if you choke at some of the descriptions and happenings. It's quite human and it's also human that certain things are subjective. When it comes to what someone else feels about a certain situation, there might be two different views on things. While someone jokingly playing with a knife may seem silly and innocent to some, some others may feel threatened and disrespected. So this is not an exact example from the movie, but you will know what I'm talking about if you watch the documentary ...
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