What Killed Michael Brown? (2020)

The Black Lives Matter movement of Summer 2020 is finally dealt with comprehensively and in-depth in this sobering documentary. This is a powerful, dramatic and inspirational shout out to all Americans. One of the best if not the best studies of US race relations in screen history. The scope is vast, the tone deeply wise and honorable.

This is a serious one. It focuses on the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That was the kernel of the BLM movement, so it is highly instructive though painful to investigate the dynamics of the whole case in detail. This is done exhaustively as a lead-in to a review of the history of the African-American journey since the Civil War that covers the Civil Rights movement, the ghettos and drug issues of the 70s and 80s, the Obama presidency and more.

It deals with public perceptions and media bias and misinformation. So much so that the San Francisco-based Social Media have attempted to suppress this film. And why wouldn’t they? It raises complex and disturbing questions about just who is manipulating real events like these for political gain and profit, by misdirecting the understandable anger of the victims and their families towards the manipulators’ own political enemies, whether or not they are the culprits of the crime.

This movie tackles one of the toughest questions in American society, and it takes it head-on without shirking. Really it’s the entire history and meaning of the USA. Shelby Steele is a magnificent and dignified narrator and host. For once we get to hear the voices of black people discussing and dealing with their own issues with leadership and gravitas. It drives home the shocking truth that we almost never hear that perspective in the mainstream media. This film is a masterpiece of sustained intensity and a passionate call out to all Americans: a call to honor.

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