Everyday Activist - Strong Island (Oscars 2018)

Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Strong Island (Oscars 2018)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

I thought that Strong Island would be like the film 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets (Netflix), where it was clear that Jordan Davis was gunned down by a white man for being a black teenager playing loud music. Then the perpetrator used the “Stand Your Ground” rule to justify his actions. Absolutely ridiculous and I firmly stood in the murdered young man’s corner. What makes Strong Island a contender in my mind is that the details aren’t as clear cut. Yes, a black man was shot and killed and the white murderer wasn’t indicted, which is gross injustice. Yet at the same time had William Ford Jr. made different choices in his conduct maybe he would be with us.

William decides not to file a police report after a car accident to accommodate the man who hit him, Mark Reilly. He happened to work for a body shop and would fix the car instead. A little testy that his girlfriend’s car wasn’t being fixed as fast as he would like, William becomes aggressive lifting a car door and throwing a vacuum cleaner. When the car was finished and picked up by his mother, William and a friend went back to the body shop at night to voice his displeasure at how his mother was treated. Mark who had insulted William’s mother ends up murdering William.

My car took over a month to fix at a legitimate body shop getting paid; forget a “known to be sketchy” place that had no financial incentive to get the job done. Two months for her car seemed reasonable to me. While William didn’t deserve to die and his death deserved justice, he needed to have confidence that a rational, civil conversation would have gotten the job done. He could have filed a police report or at least told the shop he would unless they made his car a priority, without resorting to aggressive displays. The movie mentions that Mark was scared and shamed by his peers for his fear. Hurt people hurt people.

My heart went out to William’s dad, William senior. I can’t imagine what he went through, because he so desperately wanted to do the right thing and keep his kids safe by moving to the suburbs. With a broken spirit he wasn’t able to fight for justice to overturn the Grand Jury’s decision nor be there for his women, dying shortly after his son. His wife’s guilt of not teaching their kids better was hard to watch, because in the end race definitely plays a role, but treating everyone respectfully matters. Going into a place of business and breaking stuff with the intention to intimidate isn’t badass. It’s inviting trouble.

While the grief of losing a loved one to violent circumstances without due judicial process is hard, having been on the receiving end of male aggressive behavior meant to intimidate me, it isn’t fun no matter what his race. At least as a 38 year old woman, I am considerably less likely to retaliate with violent action than a scared, shamed 19 year old man with access to a gun. Mark Reilly, scared or not, needed to atone for taking another man’s life, even if it was in self defense. The case should have automatically gone to court for a judge to decide without the permission of the Grand Jury. US judicial process seems so arbitrary sometimes, because I’m sure if the racial roles were reversed the Grand Jury would have easily sent the black murderer to trial, probably with a lynch mob in attendance. 

Calgary Showtimes: Strong Island >


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