Alex Landau, who is African American, was raised by his adoptive white parents to believe that skin color didn’t matter. That all changed at 19, when he was pulled over by the Denver police for making an illegal left turn. In this StoryCorps animation, Traffic Stop, Landau recalls how police officers pulled him out of the car, began to hit him in the face, and threatened to shoot him. It took 45 stitches to close up the lacerations in his face alone. In this short film, which will premiere tonight at storycorps.org/animation, he and his mother, Patsy, remember that night and how it changed them both forever. “For me it was the point of awakening to how the rest of the world is going to look at you,” Landau says. “I was just another black face in the streets.”
Traffic Stop will make its national broadcast premiere on PBS’s documentary series POV alongside Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie), a film by Mikaela Shwer, on September 21, 2015.
Tyesha is a high-school student who has had a challenging home life. When an alternative spoken word class came to her school, she began the process of disentangling some of her difficult emotions through poetry. In elementary school, she was raped by her next-door neighbor, and didn’t feel like she belonged in her own skin. Over the course of the class, Tyesha learns to speak about her experience in order to free herself. “Something just pushed me and just told me to just go ahead and read [my poem],” she says in this moving documentary by Ora DeKornfeld. “When I said it, I felt so much relief off of my shoulders.”
Dekornfeld is currently working on her next project: a short form documentary about a Pakistani Sufi singer who leaves his home country for the first time in order to partake in the Dosti Music Project.
In Kennesaw, Georgia, a good citizen is an armed citizen. In 1982, a law was passed that required each head of household to own a working firearm with ammunition. Nicolas Lévesque is a Canadian photographer and filmmaker who profiled the small town and captured the sweeping reality of gun ownership among its residents. “It’s just like a tool,” a Kennesaw police officer says in this short documentary. “You know, firearms are part of our culture,” another resident says. “They’re not dangerous, it’s the people that get them that are dangerous.”
Lacey Schwartz was raised in a typical upper-middle-class Jewish household in Woodstock, New York, with loving parents and a strong sense of her Jewish identity. Others often remarked on her dark skin, but her family always said that her looks were inherited from her Sicilian grandfather. “I would tell myself, my dad gets really tan in the summertime or my mom’s hair is really curly just like mine,” Schwartz says in this excerpt from her documentary Little White Lie. It wasn’t until Georgetown University admitted her as a black student—based off a picture—that Schwartz started to question the identity that her parents gave her. “It was like they gave me permission to start entertaining the idea myself,” she says.
The full documentary can be purchased from iTunes or Amazon. For more information, visit the Independent Lens website.