The Hard Stop
Named after the controversial police tactic of stopping cars, which led to the fatal shooting of unarmed, 29-year-old Mark Duggan, The Hard Stop is a documentary that follows the aftermath of Duggan’s death – a death that ignited the 2011 London riots.
The documentary premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year, and its upcoming UK release marks the five-year anniversary of the shooting, with a number of poignant instances of similar tragedies at the hands of the police having happened in the meantime (notably the shooting of Michael Brown, which provoked similar riots in America).
The Hard Stop interjects footage of the riots and media coverage of Duggan’s death within the larger narrative that follows his childhood friends, Marcus Knox-Hooke and Kurtis Henville. The effect brilliantly captures the confusion and speculation surrounding Duggan’s death, as the media spewed inaccuracies, leaving the victim’s family and friends grappling to find the truth, outraged with the police, who have a long history of fraught relations with Tottenham’s black community.
This tension plays a central part in director George Amonsah’s exploration of Duggan’s death, as the documentary incorporates the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. These riots, that started with the death of Cynthia Jarrett, an African-Caribbean, during a police search of her home, later led to the death of PC Blakelock. The murder of PC Blakelock is thought to underlie heavy-handed policing of the black community.
Whilst both Marcus and Kurtis battle with their demons, the documentary also focuses on redemption. Marcus is filmed fighting tears as he is sentenced to 32 months for his role in the riots, with footage of him smashing a police car featured within the documentary. But he is later shown as a youth-mentor, deterring young people from gang-culture (among them Duggan’s rebellious and mourning eldest son). Kurtis, meanwhile, is presented as a charismatic but frustrated character, opening up to the camera about his past misgivings and his struggle to find employment in London.
Sadly, The Hard Stop does not touch on what can be done going forward, placing too much emphasis on melancholic long shots of Marcus and Kurtis nostalgically walking through Broadwater Farm in tracksuits. At times the film stereotypes the black community as inundated with negative gang-like influences, detracting from the empathy so strongly built up throughout. Whilst The Hard Stop briefly touches on non-violent protests and youth mentoring, it leaves an underwhelming sensation, without a sense of momentum for future change.
The Hard stop is released nationwide on 15th July 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Hard Stop here: