Back from an amazing week and a half long trip to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Maybe I'll post more about it later, but I wanted to highlight an amazing documentary that I saw last week: Death of Two Sons (2006), a 64-minute documentary directed by New York based filmmaker Micah Schaffer. The film sensitively juxtaposes the lives and deaths of two young men, the Guinean Amadou Diallo who was shot forty-one times by New York police, and Jesse Thyne, the American peace corps volunteer who was living with Diallo's family in Guinea at the time of Amadou Diallo's murder. The film subtly illuminates the global inequalities that surround these two tragedies: while the taxi driver whose negligence caused the accident in which Thyne died is given a harsh sentence of three years in prison, the police who shot Diallo forty-one times were acquitted of all charges. The Peace Corps lead a march to raise awareness about road safety and a high ranking Guinean official dedicates a memorial plaque with the name of the two Peace Corps volunteers who died (as if there were not hundreds of other deaths in car accidents every year), yet when some women attempt to protest Diallo's murder outside the American embassy, the demonstration is quickly shut down: the government does not want to risk offending America. These points are not hammered out into a fully-formed polemic but rather emerge in the quiet laments of Diallo's family and friends in Guinea and those of Thyne's family in California, out of the understated but powerful way the two stories are woven together.
The back story of Amadou Diallo's life also emerges. A young man from a cosmopolitan family, he had travelled in Africa, Asia, and Europe. He had gone to school in Thailand and studied computer science in Singapore. Already posessing academic qualifications, he worked on the streets of New York to raise money to attend an American university. Yet the dreams he had pursued in his life were overwhelmed by the clamour of his death. Films like Death of Two Sons move beyond the symbol Diallo has become to remind us of the person he was and the personal grief of those who loved him.
For more information about the film, which I highly recommend, see the home page: Death of Two Sons.