TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Filmed in the summer of 2018, Joshua Altman and Bing Liu’s All These Sons puts a heavy focus on the amount of gun violence in the south and west sides of Chicago. While the sheer amount of gun violence is undoubtedly staggering and dense, the filmmakers look at more than just statistics. They emphasize the real people whose lives are intertwined with the violence found throughout the Windy City.
Reflecting the community itself, the documentary focuses on a myriad of people, both old and young. Organizations such as IMAN (Inter-City Muslim Action Network) and the Maafa Redemption Project have emerged, ready to counteract the issues plaguing Chicago and its populace. From education to deescalating gang violence, the older members of the community are stepping up to form a brighter path for youth whilst forming solutions to mitigate these problems. One of the most significant ideas that these organizations uphold is forgiveness. Many of the leaders have checkered pasts, but owning this part of their character is essential to accepting oneself, allowing them to move on and pass their wisdom to younger generations. With this acceptance, these leaders can help the young men of the south and west sides of Chicago and make a difference in their community.
“…[focuses] on the amount of gun violence in the south and west sides of Chicago.”
However, with all of these themes and ideas being in a production that runs just short of 90 minutes, the individual subjects never truly get the screen time they need to make a true impact. While there are some recurring elements from segment to segment, no singular person shown in All These Sons could be considered the main character. The by-product of having so many people to focus on leads to a disjointed and messy narrative. As so many people are introduced, each with their own personalities and dilemmas, it becomes increasingly more difficult to derive much engagement during the later parts of the movie.
Whereas the plot certainly falls through toward the end, there are still many aspects that definitely make up for it. The score by Kris Bowers, for example, consistently adds life to any scene where it’s placed in. There are many well-framed shots, and several sequences are visually impressive for a call-to-action documentary. Plus, by highlighting the violence and organizations meant to help, the documentarians seek to help better the lives of every citizen in Chicago.
While Altman and Liu may have failed to create a fully developed storyline in All These Sons, the filmmakers enlighten the audience to the plights of young men who have been affected by the gun violence that has been ingrained into the overall image of Chicago. There are so many people throughout Chi-Town whose lives are tied to a cycle of gang violence, crime, and poor education; it is staggering and heartbreaking. It’s a cycle that organizations like IMAN and the Maafa Redemption Project are trying to reduce. The leaders of these organizations want nothing more than to give those living in Chicago an opportunity to forge their own identities.
All These Sons screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…several sequences are visually impressive..."