Gil Scott Heron’s famous poem/song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised“, ends with the poignant verse, ‘the revolution would be live.’ Written in 1970, Heron could not have known that amateur cell phone footage captured by regular people would explode virally on social media creating a digital revolution.
In her powerful directorial debut, “COPWATCH“, journalist turned director, Camilla Hall, offers a rare view and intimate access to WeCopwatch, a citizen activist group, who uses simple video cameras and cell phones to capture police misconduct. “Copwatch focuses on the people behind the lens and how their lives have been impacted by the simple act of videotaping. It’s not as much about what happened in front of the cameras, but it’s about those who stood behind them and how their lives have been impacted since videotaping” shares Hall. “‘Copwatch’ is also about a sense brotherhood that developed through the shared trauma of standing up to police brutality.” There are several intimate moments throughout the documentary like this one on one conversation between Ramsey Orta & Kevin Moore, where the two men discuss the emotional burden of cop watching and relive the moment that changed their lives.
Today, citizen activist groups like WeCopwatch are using simple video cameras and cell phone to capturing police misconduct. Many of them have created programs to educate and empower communities to use their cell phones and video cameras as a community defense tool. The mere presence of WeCopwatch, on the scene watching and recording helps to deter police brutality.
Featured in “Copwatch” are Jacob Crawford (WeCopwatch co-founder, Oakland) & 3 of its members: Ramsey Orta (Eric Garner, Staten Island, NY), Kevin Moore (Freddie Gray, Baltimore, MD), & David Whitt (WeCopwatch co-founder, Ferguson, Michael Brown protests) whose videos exploded virally on social media & global/news networks outraging a nation and further inspiring the Black Lives Matter movement & human right protests.
The world watched in horror as Eric Garner was pinned down, his face pressed into the pavement. An illegal choke hold left Garner gasping for his final words, “I Can’t Breathe, I Can’t Breathe.” If Ramsey Orta hadn’t captured the entire ordeal, we would be left only with the police account and his family without the video evidence. Orta is the only person from the scene of the fatal Staten Island arrest to go to jail is currently incarcerated. Ramsey recently filed against for NYPD from prison.
In Baltimore, Kevin Moore, awoke to the piercing screams of his friend & neighbor Freddie Gray. Startled, he grabbed a camera, ran outside, filming as police dragged the injured young man into the back of a paddy wagon. Gray would die from the injuries & Kevin’s video, like those before his, aired on global news outlets & spread virally. Like Ramsey, Kevin became an immediate target and was arrested shortly after he filmed the video while attending a protest.
Jacob Crawford & David Whitt (WeCopwatch Co-Founders):
The 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant on the BART platform in Oakland left the city shaken. Jacob Crawford (WeCopwatch co-founder), who had spent over 15 years documenting police activity became even more committed to cop watching. He traveled to Ferguson, MO., after the death of Michael Brown for the protests there & befriended David Whitt, a young father who lived in the complex where Brown was shot & killed by Ferguson police. Compelled to take action, Whitt started filming the police encounters with protesters after Michael Brown’s “Hands Up” shooting & joined Crawford to co-found WeCopwatch.
As WeCopwatch expands nationwide, they continue to educate & empower civilians, teaching them how to use their cell phones & video cameras as a line of defense. Through Copwatch College, the “7 Rules To Know When Recording Police” posted on their website wecopwatch.org, WeCopwatch is changing how citizens respond to police brutality, and educating communities to record & protect.
“Copwatch” is executive produced by Oscar-winning duo, TJ Martin & Daniel Lindsay (“Undefeated“), Jacob Crawford, Patrick Hamm, Tirrell D. Whittley, produced by Matthew Perniciaro & Michael Sherman for Bow & Arrow Entertainment and distributed by Gunpowder & Sky under its FilmBuff label. 2017 Emmy Award winning composer Kris Bowers composed the film’s score.
“Copwatch” is available on video-on-demand platforms: iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, and Microsoft Movies & TV on October 6th.
About The Director:
Camilla Hall is an award-winning British journalist-turned-filmmaker. “Copwatch” is her directing debut after a seven-year career as a correspondent in the UK, the Middle East, & the US. She is also producing “Freedom For The Wolf“, a feature-length documentary about the global rise of illiberal democracy.
The primary goal of WeCopwatch, featured in the documentary is to through their Copwatch College, and appearances nationwide, they educate civilians about the “7 Rules To Know When Recording Police” posted also on their website wecopwatch.org