Film Reviews

Review: ‘Do Not Resist’

Hot Docs 2016

Ferguson, MO August 20, 2014
Film Still by Craig Atkinson

Do Not Resist
(USA, 70 min.)
Dir. Craig Atkinson
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)

Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist implies that for many in power, making America great again means turning it into a police state. At the dark heart of this dystopian doc is “law enforcement seminar trainer,” and student of “killology,” Dave Grossman.

When Grossman first prowls onto the screen, addressing a group of rapt acolytes, you are incredulous. Could this guy be real, or is he a creature from a lost Kubrick picture? We see Grossman preach to a group of policemen that criminals are about violence, and the correct way to deal with them is even greater violence, “righteous violence.” There are no more frontiersman keeping Americans safe so cops have to take the role, risking their lives for friends and neighbors. And hey, there’s a perk! When you come back from a life-threatening day, you can have the best possible sex.

The rest of the doc elaborates this thesis. The film bombards us with a nonstop montage of scenes from police state hell. Off the top, Atkinson drags you into the middle of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where a new frontiersman called Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

The sequence, with its deeply saturated colours, and crazy patches of shadows and fiery light, looks like something out of Apocalypse Now. City streets become a war zone where cops sent to control a protest look as if they’re equipped for Armageddon. We don’t hear any commentary or analysis. As with the rest of the Do Not Resist, we observe the frightening militarisation of policemen who see themselves in perpetual combat with civilians.

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Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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