Akai Gurley was shot to death in the unlit stairway of the Brooklyn housing project where he lived, November 20, 2014. Akai was a young black male. His killer was a police officer, a rookie who claimed his gun went off in a misfire. This came in the wake of a summer of conflagration in Ferguson. To the surprise and relief of many, the officer was charged with manslaughter. But there was another salient factor in this case: the cop was Chinese-American, Peter Liang. On the streets, Black Lives Matter advocates faced Asian American protesters who claimed Liang was just another scapegoat.
Artfully filmed by Ursula Liang (no relation), Down a Dark Stairwell illuminates the nuances routinely overlooked in such heavily politicized cases: the validity of African American grievances around a perceived lack of support from the Asian community, for example; and the hateful threats Asian-American BLM supporters received from their own. Evenhanded and clear-sighted, this is an important film about the need for common cause.
"A vital picture of a tumultuous time." - Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
Includes an interview with Director: Ursula Liang, Editor: Jason Harpe
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Please note that VIFF 2020 online films can be viewed in British Columbia only.
Photo: ©Alan Jacobsen