News & Notes

Documentary Do Not Resist takes a hard look at a pressing, controversial subject

Posted on Aug 17, 2016
Documentary Do Not Resist takes a hard look at a pressing, controversial subject

Craig Atkinson is no stranger to the world of law enforcement. His father was a police officer for 29 years in a city outside of Detroit; he was also the commander of a SWAT team from 1989 to 2002. However, since the time of his father’s retirement in 2002, there have been some profound changes in the nature and protocols of policing in this country. There has also been a fundamental shift in the type and grade of equipment and technology used.

Atkinson truly became aware of how fully these new elements affected domestic policing during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The vehicles, weapons, and tactics used in the aftermath of that terrorist attack were a stark illustration of the transformation toward militarization that American law enforcement agencies have undergone in the wake of 9/11 as well as the effect the War on Terror has had on local forces. Atkinson decided to explore these effects and developments through film; he turned his camera on.

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Over the course of two years and across 11 states, Atkinson examines the complex and interconnected issues associated with police militarization. The documentary includes on-the-ground coverage of protests (beginning in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of Michael Brown and the subsequent demonstrations); police training seminars; drug raids; Congressional Senate hearings; city council meetings; and more.

Eschewing talking head interviews and voice-over narration, Atkinson instead opts for a direct-observation approach, allowing the footage to speak for itself. As a cinematographer (in addition to lensing this film, Atkinson was also a cinematographer on Detropia and The Education of Muhammed Hussein), he manages to capture incredible images and revealing moments that get to the heart of the matter. The result is a searing, hot-to-the-touch document.

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As the issues in the film take an ever-more prominent place in the national discourse, and as tragic events continue to unfold across the country, forcing us to confront the complexity and urgency of the situation, Do Not Resist stands as a vital work – a provocative, necessary, and unflinching look at a serious controversy that demands our attention.

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For our Burlington Film Society screening this month, we are very fortunate that both the director and the producer and co-editor of the film, Laura Hartrick, will be in attendance. Atkinson will speak during the post-film discussion, providing insight into the filmmaking process and answering questions about his experiences while making and screening this award-winning documentary. We are also fortunate that the Deputy Chief of the Burlington Police Department, Shawn Burke, has agreed to attend. He will be on hand to address questions about how the issues depicted in the film relate to local concerns and help provide a Vermont context.

In the spirit of the mission of VTIFF and BFS to present artistically and socially relevant cinema and provide forums for fruitful and engaging community discussions, we are hoping this screening will help generate a conversation that will allow for a full range of perspectives and experiences to be voiced. We encourage anyone who attends the film to remain afterward for the Q & A and participate in the open discussion that will follow.

-Seth Jarvis, 8/17/2016