Written by Rob Korensky
“Do Not Resist” is the directorial debut for filmmaker Craig Atkinson. Atkinson was the cinematographer and producer of “Detropia” and “Freakonomics” as well as having been involved in other lesser known documentaries. The film was released for viewing September 30th and was awarded the Best Documentary Feature at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The New Yorker described the film as “an eye opening experience” and The Hollywood Reporter proclaims it is “a quietly seething look at present-day policing in America. An experience best had in the cinema.”
A sobering look at what many view as a developing concern within the United States, Atkinson was granted unprecedented access into police seminars, conventions and local law enforcement operations throughout the country. It was an objective take on a difficult situation, showing close and personal interactions with men and women who believe they are simply doing their jobs. It humanizes those in an unforgiving profession and makes it far more complex for those who choose to see the problem as a black and white issue. Numerous innocent people who believe they are acting with righteous intentions are part of a massive machine whose direction grows uncontrollable and unstoppable by the day.
The film captured tense and profound footage in the heart of protests in Ferguson, Missouri that began in August of 2014 after the death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Dystopian images of law enforcement in heavily armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles shooting tear gas into crowds to disperse protesters and maintain order leave many understandably concerned. The relations between urban communities and law enforcement continue to deteriorate partially due to the swift and emotionally charged reactions from citizens who’ve neglected to wait to rationally analyze the evidence in each situation.
These tensions only seem to be escalating with the expeditious expansion of technology within law enforcement and the inability of legislation and lawmakers to keep up. The film describes a future where self operating drones, facial recognition software and predictive policing algorithms may be utilized in an attempt to reduce crime but may trample on the due process and freedoms of United States citizens. Richard Berk, professor of Criminology and Statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, speaks of software that may be employed for “forecasting malfeasance.” A culmination of family history and statistical analysis could “predict” what kind of risk a person is of committing low level to violent crime and eerily mirrors a world depicted within the film “Minority Report.”
“Do Not Resist” illustrates an immense and expanding problem in America. How much freedom are people willing to sacrifice in the name of safety and security? How willing are people to have law enforcement intrude into their lives to prevent and stop crime? When does this desire to eradicate undesirable and violent behavior from society go too far? These are questions as a nation that need to be asked and discussed with honesty and objectivity. “Do Not Resist” will be available to rent or purchase sometime in early 2017. It is a documentary that will chill you to the bone and make you question the direction of the United States of America.