“Strong Island” – A Man Tackles Race in America Through an Investigation of His Brother’s Murder

Strong Island is such a striking film because, even though it revolves around a murder, it is not your typical crime documentary. In the film, first-time director Yance Ford investigates his brother’s murder, but we never see the killer’s face and his name is never spoken. When William Ford was shot and killed in 1992 by a white man, the case never even went to trial, and it has haunted the Ford family for years. Through extremely emotional and powerful interviews with his family and friends, Yance Ford explores the racial dynamics that led to the murder and the ultimate failure for the grand jury to indict. And through William’s case, we see parallels to more recent incidents of racial bias and the toll unjustified deaths like these take on families.

One of the most important aspects of Strong Island is how it gives space for the Ford family to be angry and for us to see the emotional and physical toll of William’s death. Too often, we see the families of black men killed unjustifiably only for a brief period of time. We don’t often see the type of righteous anger that Ford shows us and we never see the long-lasting effects an event like this can have on families. We see that with Yance’s father, who passed away soon after William was killed, and his mother, who dealt with health complications for years before ultimately passing away.

Strong Island also, importantly, does not portray William as an angel and questions why his killer, and society as a whole, are fearful of black and brown men. Toward the middle of the film, we hear about an incident between William and his eventual killer. William, angry about the guy disrespecting his mother and not having his car work done yet, throws a vacuum cleaner and picks up a car door and slams it down. Eventually, we find out that this is the reason the grand jury did not indict.

Yance asks the question, “How do you measure the distance of reasonable fear?” Even though his brother was unarmed at the time of the shooting and several yards away; Even though the incident that caused “fear” happened several weeks earlier; The grand jury thought that his was reasonable self defense. What does that say other than the grand jury thought it was reasonable to be scared of a large black man?

Through a thoroughly engaging film, Yance Ford spells out something that I don’t think a lot of people understand: A person does not have to be completely innocent to be undeserving of being killed. Too often we see the media try to demonize people of color who are unjustifiably shot or we see this rush to prove that they were incredible superhumans of goodness. But they don’t have to be angels. The point is, people of color in the United States should not have to be good to avoid getting killed, and that is a point Strong Island makes brilliantly.

Strong Island is the perfect example of the good that awards bodies can do by recognizing films like it. Even though the film was on Netflix, it wasn’t even on my radar before it got nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Netflix, seriously, do better promoting this stuff…). Once I watched it, I saw immediately why it was nominated. Not only does it tell a story that is incredibly moving and important, but Yance Ford also made a beautiful film. There are so many shots throughout the film that have stuck with me, like one where the world is upside down while the camera glides down a street on the front of a car. Or the extremely striking moments where Yance speaks directly to the audience, his eyes clearly conveying the anger, sadness and loss of this painful story.

Personal, enlightening and heartbreaking, Strong Island is as frustrating as reality. The Ford family never got the answers they desire. They never got the justice they deserve. And Yance Ford doesn’t have the answers or justice for his audience. All he can do is ask the questions that will hopefully lead to justice for other men like William.

CB podcast Ep. 94 – “Thor: Ragnarok” & “Justice League” Reviews

For the second podcast this week (A little Thanksgiving present!), the bros discuss the two newest superhero films: Taika Waititi’s “Thor Ragnarok” and Zach Snyder’s “Justice League”.
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Credits:

  • Hosts: Josiah Wampfler, Sam Wampfler & Jake Wampfler
  • Produced by Josiah Wampfler
  • A Cinema Bros Network Podcast
  • Theme Music by Josiah Wampfler. Film clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders
  • Music clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders.
  • Visit our website for show notes as well as articles covering film, television, video games, music & more!
  • Email us at cinemabrospod@gmail.com

CB Podcast Ep. 81 – “Dunkirk” Review

This week, the bros present Trailpocalypse Now as they break down 10 trailers that dropped recently and review Christopher Nolan’s latest, “Dunkirk”.
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Link Bank

Credits:
  • Hosts: Josiah Wampfler, Sam Wampfler & Jake Wampfler
  • Produced by Josiah Wampfler
  • A Cinema Bros Network Podcast
  • Theme Music by Josiah Wampfler. Film clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders
  • Music clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders.
  • Visit our website for show notes as well as articles covering film, television, video games, music & more!
  • Email us at cinemabrospod@gmail.com

Ep. 73 – Movie Recommendations Round-Up & Film News

This week, the bros forgo the usual movie review to bring you an episode chocked full of film news and recommendations in both film and television.
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Podcastaddict

Link Bank

Credits:
  • Hosts: Josiah Wampfler, Sam Wampfler & Jake Wampfler
  • Produced by Josiah Wampfler
  • A Cinema Bros Network Podcast
  • Theme Music by Josiah Wampfler. Film clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders
  • Music clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders.
  • Visit our website for show notes as well as articles covering film, television, video games, music & more!
  • Email us at cinemabrospod@gmail.com

CB Podcast Ep. 68 – Trailerpolooza & Mediocrity in Cinema

“Jake is back with the bros to discuss film news, the results of the Disney Villains Sweet Sixteen, a bevy of trailers in trailerpolooza and talk about three pretty mediocre recent releases: ‘Life’, ‘Power Rangers’ and ‘Iron Fist.'”

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Or choose your preferred listening app below.

Podcastaddict

Link Bank

Credits:
  • Hosts: Josiah Wampfler, Sam Wampfler & Jake Wampfler
  • Produced by Josiah Wampfler
  • A Cinema Bros Network Podcast
  • Theme Music by Josiah Wampfler. Film clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders
  • Music clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders.
  • Visit our website for show notes as well as articles covering film, television, video games, music & more!
  • Email us at cinemabrospod@gmail.com

Your Superman is Dead. Get Over it.

By Josiah Wampfler

“Truth. Justice. The American way.” These are the qualities that represent Superman to many people. Since 1938, the character has been known as the pinnacle of heroism and his name has been synonymous with hope and optimism in popular culture. But today, we have a different Superman. This Superman exists in a world not unlike our own, where cynicism is common and acts of heroism are not always met with praise. This Superman is a man who is not entirely sure what being a hero means or whether the world actually needs him to be one. And it is this Superman, according to critics like Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death, that spells the end of an American icon. And it is Zach Snyder who killed him.

In his article, “Superman and the Damage Done: A Requiem for an American Icon,” Faraci claims that Snyder’s “ugly new interpretation” of the character in both Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice “devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.”

This view has not been uncommon in the days since Batman v. Superman released. I have heard people say that the film “got the character of Superman wrong,” that the film “isn’t what superhero films are supposed to be” or that Snyder “deeply misunderstands” the character of Superman. The film has been ravaged by critics, and while many of the criticisms are valid – the film certainly has an array of problems – I find this particular criticism to be quite dubious. Zach Snyder does not “deeply misunderstand” the character of Superman. It is those that are saying this that “deeply misunderstand” Snyder’s vision for the character.

The complaints with this Superman began back when Man of Steel came out. Critics of the film decried this new Superman who was unsure if he should be a hero, caused massive destruction to the world in his fight with General Zod and executed Zod by snapping his neck. While Snyder having Clark let his father die is still inexcusable, everything else made sense. Superman’s reluctance to be a hero was an interesting dimension to a usually flat character, the massive destruction caused makes sense in a battle between two super-men and Superman had no choice but to kill Zod.

The same critics that leveled these complaints against Man of Steel are the ones saying that Zach Snyder has officially killed the character in Batman v. Superman. The great irony of it all is that Snyder gave critics exactly what they wanted: consequences. While Man of Steel seemed to overlook the destruction caused by Superman, Batman v. Superman dwells on that destruction and gives weight to that destruction. This is because the new film is mostly told from Batman’s perspective – easily the biggest critic of Superman.

Yes, this Superman is not the do-good Boy Scout that Christopher Reeves’ version was. Yes, we are compelled to mistrust the Man of Steel in this film. We don’t particularly like the character through most of the film because this is not a Superman film. It is a Batman film (hence why his name is first in the title).

Granted, the film does not always do the greatest job of keeping with Batman’s perspective and that is one of its many problems. But, one only needs to look a little closer and it is quite clear that this is the case. Man of Steel seems almost overly optimistic compared to the darkness in Batman v. Superman because Batman is an overly cynical character. This overly cynical Batman would seem pretty crazy if the Superman he wanted to kill was the same as Christopher Reeves’ Superman. We would hate Batman, and it is very important that we are sympathetic to Batman in this film.

The other aspect of Snyder’s Superman that critics get wrong is the overall themes he is working with. Devin Faraci writes in his article, “One of the larger themes of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the idea that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world, a point of view that is not only a) insane but b) inherently anti-Superman.” He goes on to call this theme “intrinsically nihilistic.”

This is another example of how critics are fundamentally misreading the film. Again, Snyder’s themes sometimes get a bit muddled, but they are quite clear if only you look a little deeper.

The theme of the film is not that every heroic action will lead to something terrible, but that every heroic action could lead to unintended harm. The film is not saying Superman shouldn’t be a hero, it is saying that he should think more about the consequences his actions have on the world around him.

You can draw a direct correlation between the debate the film has over Superman and the debate we as a country have had over our foreign policy and specifically our drone program. When we call a drone strike, we may kill a terrorist leader, but there is also the chance of civilian casualties. Just as we must consider the effects of a drone strike, so too must Superman consider the effects of his actions. As another comic book company’s character said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Also, so what if this version of Superman is a bit nihilistic? Sometimes nihilistic, dark storytelling is more appealing because I think we like to wallow a bit in the darkness of life every once in a while. Sometimes these stories are just more interesting than the glossy, hopeful stories of past Superman films. This is probably why Batman is a much more popular and beloved character, despite him being far more cynical. Maybe, we all have a bit of nihilist in us.

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Still, some critics proclaim that Batman v. Superman is not what superhero films are “supposed to be.” They say that superheroes are meant to be beacons of hope for us to look to; that superheroes are meant to inspire us.  They long for the days of Christopher Reeve, where seeing Superman on-screen was a way to escape the darkness of life.

While I certainly love the Marvel brand of superhero films that are bright and hopeful and Christopher Reeves’ Superman was the first great superhero film, I like that DC has decided to bring something different to the table now. They don’t want us to escape the darkness of life. They want us to really think about it.

The last line of Devin Faraci’s article states, “I feel bad for the youngest generation who has been handed a jar of granny’s peach tea instead of truth, justice and the American way.”

Maybe, Faraci, without even knowing it, just stated exactly what this film is trying to say. That, by flipping this American icon on his head, by making us question the man whose slogan is “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” Snyder is saying what a lot of younger people are feeling today: That the American dream we were taught would be there for us is no more…and in its place is a lonely jar of granny’s peach tea.