Teenagers Terrence Fisher and Daniel Howard were already working on a video about gun violence in their Bedford-Stuyvesant housing project when an 11-year police veteran gunned down Timothy Stansbury. The unarmed youth was Fisher’s best friend, and the young filmmaker was standing only a few feet behind him at the time. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the shooting “unjustified,” but the policeman claimed his gun went off accidentally, and a grand jury stunned the city by failing the indict the officer.
These are the very basic facts, but they tell you little about the pain chronicled in Fisher and Howard’s short documentary. Age eighteen and nineteen at the time of production, they were not yet skilled documentarians, but they were skilled enough to show us the pain expressed by family and friends. Reactions range from the familiar and all-too-understandable “f**k the police” mantra, to remarkably clear-eyed assessments of just what may have caused the death of Stansbury.
When New York’s Mayor Bloomberg appears on the scene, one outraged lady emits a furious verbal barrage at the mayor. She isn’t haranguing Bloomberg with blind anger, but with an salient point – just what was a recently transferred policeman from suburban Long Island doing patrolling one of the nation’s toughest neighborhoods?
But finally, this video is a simple chronicle of the sadness at the heart of the filmmakers’ lives. Terrence Fisher has lost nine friends to gun violence now, Daniel Howard has lost three, and they are hardly alone. More attention – and not just an appearance at the Sundance Film Festival – is due.