Yance Ford’s new documentary “Strong Island” walked away from last month’s Sundance Film Festival with a very appropriate recognition: a special jury prize for storytelling. The filmmaker used the documentary to work through the heart-wrenching crime that took his brother’s life nearly a quarter-decade ago, crafting an intensely personal and unique storytelling conceit along the way.
Twenty-four years ago, Ford’s brother William was shot and killed by a 19-year-old white mechanic over a dispute involving a car repair. The mechanic claimed self-defense against William, who was unarmed at the time, and the man was set free. The doc is not just an investigation into the shooting, but a searing and insightful look into the racism that influenced the story and the injustice of how William became a prime suspect in his own death.
Ford has spent years figuring out how best to tell this story and, in turned, created a cinematic language that brings the audience inside his family’s grief, anger and confusion. The project has been nurtured and supported by many members of the doc community, including Danny Glover, Laura Poitras, the Danish team behind Josh Oppenheimer’s masterpieces (“Act of Killing” and “Look of Silence”), the Sundance Institute and Chicken & Egg. The film was produced by Ford, Yanceville Films & Joslyn Barnes and Louverture Films.
“Strong Island” will next screen at the Berlinale later this month.