‘True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.’ - Clarence Darrow
‘1500 And Counting’ is a documentary currently being produced and directed by writer & poet Siana Bangura, and award-winning filmmaker Troy James Aidoo. They will be showcasing the death of 1500 people who have died under police custody in the UK since 1991 and the families who have been unaffected under the microscope.
We now live in an era where we no longer solely rely on mainstream media to broadcast information; news and knowledge is now at our fingertips. The young creatives have taken it in their own hands to delve deeper into why a large number of these deaths have gone unaccounted for and the authorities absolved from any wrongdoings.
We spoke to Siana Bangura to find out more about this epic documentary in the making...
What inspired you to create this documentary?
Siana - Myself and Troy Aidoo were compelled to make this documentary after the death of Sheku Bayoh on 3rd May 2015. After realising it had taken weeks for media attention to be placed on the case and after reading up on the terrible details of his arrest and subsequent death, we started to have lots of questions - we wanted answers. We saw that very few people had investigated police brutality in the UK so we decided that we would do it because we were so frustrated with the silence and with lots of people claiming that things aren't so bad in the UK in terms of racism. We are too quick to point fingers at America and turn our noses up when we hear about flagrant racism there but things are also bad here - the difference is there is very little attention on the situation. Police brutality and gross police misconduct are a British problem also.
What kind of impact do you hope to have?
Siana - We hope that every person who sees 1500 And Counting will leave feeling vulnerable and incensed to the point of wanting to take action. That action could be supporting organisations supporting families of victims of police brutality or groups lobbying to change the laws to encourage our government to reform the police force and address institutional racism. We want people to talk about the film and the cases with their friends, families, and colleagues. We want people to want to hold the police accountable and just be more aware that the police are not always on the right side of the law themselves. We hope our film will open honest and necessary dialogue about institutional racism and police brutality in the UK. The Stephen Lawrence case was groundbreaking as the public learnt that institutional racism is rife in Britain but we have yet to actually do something about it.
Have you learnt anything profound so far?
Siana - Troy and I have been shocked and saddened by the amount of untold stories out there. So many people who were vulnerable died at the hands of the police and their deaths have been swept under the carpet. Not one officer has been brought to justice in 25 years, which is pretty terrifying. We've started to see that the current bodies that exist to 'police the police' aren't working so it leaves us wondering if the police are really above the law. It seems they currently are... But they shouldn't be.
Why should people donate?
Siana - There are just a few days left of our campaign and we need as much support as possible. Police brutality isn't some distant issue or an American problem. It's something that could affect any of us at any time. We are all vulnerable when the law is corrupt and our institutions are rotten to the core. Getting funding for a film like this through 'traditional' routes is tough because it's inherently anti-establishment. Although a difficult decision, we have chosen to crowd fund to encourage the public to have ownership of this project. When you donate to and support this film you are literally helping us tell a story that has been overlooked since records began. David Oluwale’s death in 1969 was the first known incident of racist policing leading to the death of a black person. It is also the only time in contemporary British history that police officers involved in brutality that directly, or indirectly, led to the death of a suspect have received criminal sentences.
Not once officer has been punished since and not one family has received justice. There have been a few films on the subject of police brutality in the UK and documentaries like Ken Fero's Injustice, but this topic needs more of a spotlight placed on it. I keep saying this because it's true: if we don't make this film, I'm not sure who will.
What can people expect from this movie; what can we learn?
Siana - You can expect to be surprised, shocked, and angry. You can also expect an honest and sincere delivery of the facts, with special attention being paid to the human stories behind the statistics. What you learn and take away from the film will of course be down to you, the audience. But we hope that everyone leaves feeling vulnerable and moved to do something - take action and have important honest conversations.
When is this movie set to be released?
1500 And Counting will be released this summer. We plan to have screenings in various parts of the UK. Find out more and keep up to date by visiting our website:
They have currently raised over £2000 thanks to generous public and their fund ends on the 12th March 2016. If you like what you read - show your support to these progressive independent creatives. Depending on your donation amount you could receive anything from a signed post card, a signed copy of ‘elephant’ by Siana Bangura, tickets to the screening of the film and a two-hour filmmaking workshop with award-winning filmmaker Troy James Aidoo.
Click here to donate - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/1500-and-counting-film#/
Interviewer: Kofi Dwaah, IC-FREE Magazine