By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of the hard-hitting documentary The Hard Stop from George Amponsah whose film follows two peoples’ lives as they grieve after their best friend’s death.
The Hard Stop offers a dark but revealing look at the problem of racial prejudice and policing from a British perspective.
I caught this independent movie at my local cinema, the Phoenix, this week and it really haunted me…
George Amponsah’s documentary examines the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by Operation Trident police in Tottenham Hale and the outrage over which subsequently sparked the 2011 London riots. Going behind the headlines, the film zeroes in on two of Duggan’s childhood friends, Marcus Knox-Hooke and Kurtis Henville, as they tell their stories.
Mark Duggan was a 29-year old father of six and member of a local gang called the Tottenham Man Dem (TMD). One summer’s evening back in 2011, whilst driving in his taxi, Operation Trident (a police unit) performed a ‘hard stop’ on his car. A hard stop is a term used when police carry out a quick manoeuvre on a car that is deemed a dangerous threat, thus normally ending with the said car being brought to a halt with necessary force – hence the title of the film.
As Duggan left his car, he was shot twice as he was believed to be a threat. The police officers at the scene stated Mark had a gun and was going to use it. Those close to Duggan claimed he didn't have a gun. One firearm was found 20 yards from Duggan next to a hedge that the police said was in his possession. However, there was no DNA on the gun and scientific evidence shown he could not have thrown it there after being shot. So did he actually throw it? Did anyone see him throw it? If no gun was on his person, was he still a threat? The police were found not guilty of misconduct at a later investigation and everyone was told to move on, but how could the family and friends?
This documentary follows both Kurtis and Marcus as they deal with the aftermath of their friend’s death in their own separate ways. Kurtis has two children and trying to get on the straight and narrow with a regular job. And we also follow Marcus for the last few weeks of his freedom before a potential prison sentence is handed to him.
The one criticism I have of George’s doc is that half way though, he seems to lose his way with the story he is telling. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great documentary but he seems to digress. We need to know about the foundations of Duggan’s gang and upbringing but we end up down paths of unemployment and life as a Tottenham youth. I found this interesting but I did have to stop and wonder where are we going with this? The message of the documentary is clear, when will the black community’s voices be heard? But the actual narrative gets slightly muddled.
It’s quite nauseating to think how this kind of subject matter is still topical. The documentary makes you stop and ponder just how lucky most people are in their lives. This film also gives a more rounded approach to the Mark Duggan and riots tale as it gives great context – even if it does go off on a tangent at times.
It’s certainly thought-provoking, if not a little depressing, and highlights the constant issues we are still having in Britain today. I left the theatre feeling a lot of sympathy for the loss of a father of six due to, as evidence suggests, a wrongful killing; but also for Blackwater Farm. The kids that grow up on that estate have already been tarnished from the day they are born. The unheard in this documentary speak louder than their onscreen counterparts at times. This film will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
The Hard Stop’s last showing at the Phoenix is today but it will be available to buy in the coming weeks. Phoenix have many more independent films on offer, click here to find them.