Tribeca-winning documentary Do Not Resist .
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In Do Not Resist, Craig Atkinson (cinematographer – Detropia) makes a dazzling directorial debut with jaw dropping access. From the riots in Ferguson to disagreements on Capitol Hill, whether he is following a heavily armored SWAT team as they issue a no-call warrant or sitting in on a meeting during which the town council of Concord, New Hampshire votes to utilize a US Homeland Security grant to purchase a tank, Atkinson delivers a unique and powerful image of the stories and characters surrounding an issue that has billions of dollars — and lives — hanging in the balance. Using footage shot over two years, in 11 states, Do Not Resist reveals a rare and surprising look into the increasingly disturbing realities of American police culture.
From Tribeca by Deborah Rudolph:
Do Not Resist is an urgent and powerful exploration of the rapid militarization of the police in the United States. Opening on startling on-the-scene footage in Ferguson, Missouri, the film then broadens its scope to present scenes from across the country—a conference presentation where the value of high-end weapons technologies is presented to potential police buyers, a community that has just received its very own military-grade tank, and a SWAT team arriving at a home to execute a warrant. The cumulative effect of these vignettes paints a startling picture of the direction our local law enforcement is headed.
Craig Atkinson filmed his directorial debut over two years and in 11 states. Through keen and thoughtful observances, Atkinson deftly presents the characters and stories that comprise this pressing issue. The result reveals a rare and surprising look into the increasingly disturbing realities of American police culture.
courtesy of press kit:
In April 2013, I watched the police response in the days following the Boston Marathon bombing in awe. I had never associated the vehicles, weapons and tactics used by officers after the attack with domestic police work. I grew up with the War on Drugs era of policing: My father was an officer for 29 years in a city bordering Detroit and became a member of SWAT when his city formed a team in 1989. What I wasn’t familiar with, since my father’s retirement from the force in 2002, was the effect the War on Terror had on police work. Making this film was an attempt to understand what had changed.
Knowing that interviews with experts would do little to communicate the on-the-ground reality of American policing, we instead set out to give the viewer a direct experience. We attended police conventions throughout the country and started conversations with SWAT officers at equipment expos and a seemingly endless cascade of happy hours, offering the only thing we could: an authentic portrayal of whatever we filmed together. On more than one occasion, we were on our way to the airport, camera in hand, only to receive a phone call from our contact in the police department instructing us not to come. Our access seemed to be directly tied to the amount of negative press the police were getting at that time. It became increasingly difficult to get access after the events in Ferguson, and there were many times we thought we would have to stop production altogether. The urgency of the situation, however, motivated us to continue.
We noticed a trend in early 2014 of police departments being solicited by technology companies offering new tools to help alleviate dwindling operating budgets and loss of personnel. One technology provider we filmed with offered the same IBM platform the NSA uses to collect web communications to police departments, for as little as $1,000 per year. Throughout 2014 and 2015, we watched as departments throughout the county adapted the technologies without any guidelines or policy directives governing their use. At times, the companies would make the chief of police sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from telling their communities they even had the technologies. The mantra we would continue to hear was that the police couldn’t let terrorists know the tools they were using to intercept their plots. The problem is, in three years of filming police, there was never an opportunity to use the equipment on domestic terrorism. Instead, the military surplus equipment and surveillance technology were used on a day-to-day basis to serve search warrants, almost always for drugs.
In hindsight it’s not hard to understand how we arrived at the current state of policing in America. Since 9/11, the federal government has given police departments more than $40 billion in equipment with no stipulations on how it should be deployed or any reporting requirements. Additionally, the federal government created a loophole that allowed police departments to keep the majority of the money and property seized during search warrants to supplement their operating revenue. If a police department makes a portion of their operating revenue from ticketing citizens or seizing their assets, then police officers become de facto tax collectors. We met many officers who said they didn’t sign up for that.
Everyone wants to know what my father thinks of the film, and in all honesty, I think it pains him. It’s hard to watch the profession you dedicated your life to evolve into something completely unrecognizable. During the 13 years my father was on SWAT from 1989-2002, his team conducted 29 search warrants total. Compare that to today, when departments of a similar size we filmed conducted more than 200 a year.
As we begin to share the film, the overwhelming response from audiences has been shock and disbelief. I can say that we were just as shocked while filming the material. Going in, we had no idea what we were going to find. We kept thinking we were creating opportunities to film with departments that would show the full spectrum of the SWAT experience, but time and time again, we found ourselves inside homes searching for things that we never found. It’s my hope that both community members and officers working hard to challenge the culture of policing within their departments use this film to illustrate the dire need for change.
• How police officers across America have been armed like the military.
• The Pentagon transfer of armored vehicles to small community police forces.
• Extraordinary access to multiple search warrant raids as they’re happening.
• Exposes how local police force behaves on a live drug raid.
• Testimony by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of
Defense at a Senate hearing on police use of military equipment.
• Police training seminars with the number one trainer of all US military and
• The top down messaging from the federal government to local law
• Adaptation of surveillance technology once reserved for the highest levels of
government being used within local police departments.
• Predictive policing tools reminiscent of Minority Report being introduced into
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
6/27/16 – “Do Not Resist opens with footage of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, events made famous by their media ubiquity, but never seen quite like this. Craig Atkinson’s documentary features an on-the-ground perspective of the riots that, despite the chaos, has an immediate intimacy. The protestors are seen mostly in closeups, emerging from the shadows and surrounded by the unseen mayhem of the crowds. As the movie pivots from these moments to other incidents in which military force has been used on a local scale, Do Not Resist maintains a frightening contrast between the mechanically oppressive nature of law enforcement and its targets, leaving the impression of humanity getting steamrolled by unregulated oppression.” Eric Kohn, IndieWire – link
7/8/16 – “Many documentarians aim for timely subjects, but few recent movies have hit a nerve so deeply as Do Not Resist by Craig Atkinson.” Daniel Eagan, Film Journal International – link
7/10/16 – “A timely film if there ever was one, and winner of the Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Do Not Resist takes us on a visceral journey through the sweat and fear – and teargas-stung eyes – of those who do, in fact, resist, while also offering the police a chance to have their say.” Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail – link
7/21/16 – “My father was a police officer for 29 years…he dedicated his heart and soul to the profession and to what he thought he was doing, and they did a really good job, and what he’s observing on-screen, in the film, is his profession evolve into something that he could never personally identify with or ever want to be a part of.” Craig Atkinson, director of Do Not Resist, Hammer to Nail interview – link
7/25/16 – Do Not Resist by Craig Atkinson just took home the prize for Best Documentary Film at Indy Film Fest! – link
10/7/16 – Craig Atkinson’s award winning Do Not Resist is WNYC’s Documentary of the Week! – link
10/16/16 – “An eye-opening new documentary exposes the warrior culture pervading U.S. law enforcement” The Intercept – link
12/14/16 – Was CCC alum Do Not Resist blacklisted by Netflix? Director Craig Atkinson speaks with Business Insider about the deal that fell apart – link