Gil Scott Heron’s famous poem/song, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, ends with the poignant verse, ‘the revolution would be live.’ Written in 1970, Heron could not have known that amateur cell phone footage captured by regular people would explode virally on social media creating a digital revolution and inspiring The Black Lives Matter Movement.
“If Black Lives Matter is the voice of those targeted by police brutality; Copwatch is the movement’s coveted look out when it’s actually happening.”
Today citizen activist groups like WeCopwatch are turning their cameras on, capturing police offenses, and protecting the rights of citizens. In her powerful directorial debut, COPWATCH, journalist turned director, Camilla Hall, offers an intimate view and rare access to WeCopwatch.
The new COPWATCH documentary released by Bow and Arrow Entertainment in association with Gunpowder & Sky, will screen theatrically in the following select cities leading up to the Video On Demand debut on September 29th (additional cities to be announced)
- New York, NY (Sept 22 Metrograph Cinema)
- Los Angeles CA (Sept 22, Echo Park Film Center)
- Harlem, NY (Sept 23rd, Maysles Cinema)
- Chicago, IL (Sept 22-28, Facets Cinematheque )
- Columbus, OH (Sept 22-28th, Gateway Film Center)
Copwatch profiles the WeCopwatch members who have filmed the fatal police arrest of Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY), Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), and Freddie Gray (Baltimore, MD). Video imagery of their deadly arrests have been burned into our consciousness changing the perception of law enforcement, and sparking national protest against excessive force.
The world watched in horror as Eric Garner was pinned down, his face pressed into the pavement. An illegal choke hold left Garner gasping for his final words, “I Can’t Breathe, I Can’t Breathe.” If Ramsey Orta hadn’t captured the entire ordeal, we would be left only with the police account and his family without the video evidence. Orta is the only person from the scene of the fatal Staten Island arrest to go to jail; in fact, he is currently incarcerated.
In Baltimore, Kevin Moore, awoke to the piercing screams of his friend and neighbor Freddie Gray. Startled, he grabbed a camera, ran outside, filming as police dragged the injured young man into the back of a paddy wagon. Gray would die from the injuries and Kevin’s video, like those before his, aired on global news outlets and spread virally. Like Ramsey, Kevin became an immediate target and was arrested shortly after he filmed the video while attending a protest.
The 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant on the BART platform in Oakland left the city shaken. Jacob Crawford (WeCopwatch co-founder), who had spent over 15 years documenting police activity became even more committed to cop watching. He traveled to Ferguson, MO., after the death of Michael Brown for the protests there and befriended David Whitt, a young father who lived in the complex where Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police. Compelled to take action, Whitt started filming the police encounters with protesters after Michael Brown‘s “Hands Up” shooting and joined Crawford to co-found WeCopwatch.
“Instead of a sanguine documentary about injustice and police brutality, Hall has managed to create an intriguing, bittersweet human tale, with the fight for equality and justice as the backdrop for an intimate portrait of three lives at once ripped apart and stitched
together by a common cause.”
Copwatch distinguishes itself from similar films released recently by not focusing on a specific location, event, or act of police brutality. Instead, Hall focuses on the people behind the lens and how their lives have been impacted by the simple act of videotaping. “COPWATCH is not about what happened in front of the cameras, but it’s about those who stood behind them,” shares Hall. “It’s about a sense brotherhood that developed through the shared trauma of standing up to police brutality.” There are several intimate moments throughout the documentary like this one on one conversation between Ramsey Orta and Kevin Moore,where the two men discuss the emotional burden of cop watching and relive the moment that changed their lives.
The mere presence of WeCopwatch, on the scene watching and recording helps to deter police brutality. As WeCopwatch continues to expand nationwide, they continue to educate and empower civilians, teaching them how to use their cell phones and video cameras as a line of defense. Through “Copwatch College,” the “7 Rules To Know When Recording Police posted on their website wecopwatch.org, WeCopwatch is changing how citizens respond to police brutality, and educating communities to record and protect.
Copwatch is executive produced by Oscar-winning duo, TJ Martin and Daniel Lindsay (Undefeated), Jacob Crawford, Patrick Hamm, Tirrell D. Whittley, produced by Matthew Perniciaro and Michael Sherman for Bow and Arrow Entertainment and distributed by Gunpowder & Sky under its FilmBuff label. 2017 Emmy Award winning composer Kris Bowers composed the film’s score.