Strong and different approach to a sadly familiar subject
Another tragic tale of a poor, young black man killed by police in what are – at best – highly questionable circumstances, and the riots that followed. But this story takes place in London, not the U.S. and is a powerful and timely reminder that issues of poverty, racism, police violence are far from uniquely American.
Amponsah defies the expected by focusing much less on the whys and hows of the shooting itself, and much more on the lives those left behind – specifically the two best friends of the victim, Mark Duggan. One, Marcus, is fueled by anger and grief at not only the death of his friend, but at the situation of his people, his neighborhood. He spends time in prison for helping to start the riots that followed the shooting – though the film briefly raises questions as to the fairness of the charge. Marcus was certainly present, and participated to some extent, but his claim that he also tried to stop things when the riot went from being an expression of outrage to an excuse to loot and pillage seems to be supported to at least some extent by closed circuit TV footage. He finds some solace in Muslim faith, and ultimately seems determined to try and make a change for the better in his poverty stricken neighborhood.
The other friend, Kurtis, is a lighter soul – funny and talkative, though no less hurt and angry at both Duggan's death, and the situation of his community.
The film can feel scattershot at times – it's neither fully an expose of an incident of injustice, nor a character study, nor a wider political polemic. In jumping around between those elements, it can sometimes undermine the sense of focus. But at the same time, there is something brave and new in trying to create a mosaic that covers both the past and the present, and does nothing to deny the bleakness of the situation, yet still offers hope, and people refusing to give up. In this, the film's strengths and weaknesses are really just two sides of the same coin.
I'm also open to the fact that I went in expecting more of an expose than an essay, so on 2nd viewing I might find it easier to go with the flow of the films that is, instead of being thrown by what it wasn't.
Certainly intelligent and important, and far from a simple story or simplistic approach.