“Hands up, don’t shoot” — the tragic protest slogan echoed around the globe after Michael Brown was shot by a police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. These four words hold even more gravitas as Jason Pollock’s feature length documentary, “Stranger Fruit,” mines a crucial piece of video evidence suggesting that Brown did not rob that convenience store for two boxes of Swisher Sweet Cigarillos.
The film’s premiere at South by Southwest coincided with a front page story in the New York Times outlining a previously unreported surveillance video from earlier on the day of Brown’s death — a video “Stranger Fruit” suggests is proof of a barter type transaction that took place, a small bag of marijuana for boxes of the cigars, after which Brown decided to leave the cigars behind the counter for safekeeping before returning later that morning to retrieve them, an act that may or may not have contributed to his death. (A lawyer for the store and its employees has told the Times that no such transaction took place).
“Stranger Fruit” is an intricately detailed documentary concerning the forensic evidence of an incredibly troubling case as well as at least a half dozen eyewitness accounts of what every witness described as an execution.
Is it activism or documentary filmmaking? Does Pollock have an agenda? What is clear is the pain felt by Brown’s father, uncle, mother and the rest of those close to the slain teen.
The deaths of unarmed minority people at the hands of police have led to protests, the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for justice. Austin, do we remember Daniel Rocha, Larry Jackson Jr., Byron Carter Jr., David Joseph and Kevin Brown?
Institutional racism, cronyism, the killings of predominately young men at the hands of law enforcement — these are the issues at the heart of “Stranger Fruit.”
The final showing of “Stranger Fruit” at SXSW will be at 1:30 p.m. March 15 at Zach Theatre. The filmmakers and family members of Brown will be speaking at a panel at 2 p.m. March 13.