Independent Lens: Ferguson Rises

(Rochester, NY) – Before the global uprising condemning the murder of George Floyd and calls for police accountability echoed internationally, there was a small town in Missouri that erupted in protest after the Aug. 9, 2014 killing of Black teenager Michael Brown Jr. by a white police officer. Filmmaker Mobolaji Olambiwonnu’s documentary Ferguson Rises shines a spotlight on this small town that inspired a new global civil rights movement and chronicles a father’s journey as he grapples with the pain of losing a son. The Independent Lens presentation of the film airs Monday, November 8, 2021 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

Ferguson Rises explores the depths of the protests following Michael Brown Jr.’s killing through the eyes of his father, Michael Brown Sr., and many diverse voices in the community: from residents to police officers, to business owners and activists who took to the streets in protest for a record 400-plus days straight. 

At the center of the documentary is Michael Brown Sr., who is interviewed at great length about his son’s death and the ways he overcame the pain that engulfed him and his family in the years that followed. In doing so, Olambiwonnu sheds light on the grief a Black father must cope with after the murder of his son, and the resiliency he builds alongside a community that rises up against racial injustice. The film follows Brown Sr. as he finds himself among families of victims of police brutality, all thrust into activism not by choice, but circumstance, and by a failed criminal justice system.

At the time of Michael Brown Jr.’s death, 67 percent of Ferguson residents were Black. The town, however, was patrolled by a police department in which only three out of 53 officers were Black, and perspectives on law enforcement’s treatment of Michael Brown Jr. were split, with some showing support and others who came out vehemently against it. The strikingly different perspectives come to the forefront of the film, and in interviews with both opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement and the activists leading it, audiences see a glimpse of the polarizing emotions that are still ingrained in justice reform conversations today.

Pictured: Michael Brown Sr. holds a painting of Jr. donated by an artist
Credit: Courtesy of Rafael Roy



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