Review: ‘Do Not Resist’ at the Athena Cinema

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Bursts of lightning illuminate a dark, ominous sky. The heavy dark grey clouds peer down upon scenes of dissent as people take to the streets, chanting and protesting with visible frustration. The year is 2014. The place, Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death of an unarmed African American man in a minor police altercation.

This is no drama however, woven from the minds of talented writers to snag an Oscar victory. This is Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist, and emboldened documentary which takes a look at the nature of police brutality, militarization and race relations in the U.S.

Right off the bat, Atkinson’s film is saturated with discomfort. It is meant to be, for it addresses a highly uncomfortable topic. A sense of foreboding and unease permeates each and every scene, and any lighthearted moments are far a few between as SWAT teams destroy the windows of a home to arrest a man for a gram and a half of marijuana. As he pleads with the arresting officers to deliver the money he is carrying to his boss, the thick wad of cash is immediately confiscated and taken by his captors eliciting the sounds of murmuring throughout the audience.

Atkinson challenges viewers to look past more than just police response and interaction with the public, however. He seeks to open Americans’ eyes to the militarization of police forces including the use of armored vehicles and heavy artillery for reasons to be explained with a measure of disbelief. With a handheld camera, he manages to gather truly impressive shots distinguishable in quality from those provided from news outlets.

Despite the captive storytelling, some parts of the film do seem disjointed in their organization. For topics that are interrelated, a better job can be done in their arrangement. Do Not Resist appeared at The Athena Cinema on Court St. for a one-night event sponsored by Students for Liberty. With the intention of posing difficult dialogues, the Libertarian organization made use of the 2016 film as a means of discussion. The film was released in late 2016, and can be rented or purchased through a variety of online retailers including Amazon and iTunes.