(Documentary Feature, 2017, Premiere SXSW)
The policeman who killed Milwaukee resident Dontre Hamilton in April 2014, in a public park in the middle of the day, shot him 14 times. He wasn’t the first cop to approach Hamilton as he dozed in the downtown park — others had been there and seen that he was doing nothing wrong. Why an employee at a nearby Starbucks saw the need to call the police about him, and not once but twice, is one of the sorriest aspects in the horrific chain of events that robbed Hamilton’s family of their son and brother. The 31-year-old black man was schizophrenic and, except for the baton that he reportedly grabbed from the officer, unarmed.
Ljung’s clear-eyed film finds hope within terrible circumstances, and strength within heartbreak. Given the continued unfortunate timeliness of the subject, the doc would certainly find an audience in a wider platform beyond the fest circuit.
Opening with a James Baldwin quote and ending with riots in Milwaukee over another police-involved shooting, Ljung’s film illuminates an American crisis — the emotional fallout as well as the vigilance and hard work required to address the use of lethal force by police, their accountability, and the need for better training in dealing with mentally ill people. In Nate Jr. and Maria Hamilton, he shows that vigilance in action, heartbroken but unwavering.
Directed by Erik Ljung
Edited by Michael Vollmann
Trailer Editor: Matt Prekop
Executive Producer Barry Poltermann