As national security shifts its focus from the threat of drugs to the threat of terrorism and a resurgence of protests, Craig Atkinson’s award-winning documentary Do Not Resist sheds light on how policing in America has followed suit.
The Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., will hold a free screening of the documentary Wednesday at 7 p.m. sponsored by Ohio University’s Students For Liberty, a campus group that promotes individual liberties. Arts For Ohio is also sponsoring the event.
“Throughout discussion with us, the producers (of the film) eventually reached out to Alden Library who, in turn, reached out to the Athena on Court Street,” Conor Fogarty, an OU campus coordinator of Students For Liberty, said in an email. “The theater agreed to screen the film while we got funding to have both free admission and pizza.”
Do Not Resist won Best Documentary at The Tribeca Film Festival last year in Tribeca, New York. The 72-minute documentary tackles the subject of growing police militarization, increased SWAT raids and changes in law enforcement strategy and training. The film also marks cinematographer Atkinson’s directorial debut, who sought to capture a subject close to home.
“My initial intent was that my father was a police officer, so I always paid attention to police and was surprised to see the response after the Boston Marathon bombings,” Atkinson said. “It was a hot topic in the national conversation. I wanted to know what had changed since my father’s time and (Do Not Resist) captures the transition from policing during The War on Drugs to The War on Terror.”
Atkinson said he and his crew gained access to police training and SWAT operations by going to police conventions and engaging officers in conversations.
“We promised an honest portrayal, which was all we had to promise,” he said. “What we were hoping to do is put the camera in situations where policing is unfolding and let the audience decide for themselves. People were shocked that we were given such access.”
Atkinson discovered that police raids had become far more common than during the 13 years his father spent on a SWAT team. Atkinson said his father had served 29 search warrants over his career whereas modern police departments, like the one captured in the film from South Carolina, conduct raids more than 200 times per year.
“The one we covered in South Carolina was one of three during that day,” he said.
In 2014, $5.1 billion was seized from Americans by police, overshadowing the $3.5 billion taken from Americans through burglary, Atkinson said.
“There are some rays of hope in states passing laws requiring convictions before seizing criminal assets,” Atkinson said, pointing out California as one. However, he said the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions “thinks asset revenue is the best thing ever,” which complicates the matter.
The documentary will be shown one night only in theater three on the upper floor of the Athena Cinema, Alexandra Kamody, director of the Athena said. Theater three is the only theater in the building that has both film and digital projection.
“The significance of one-night events I think is about is to generate a good discussion and have a large crowd,” Kamody said. “Sometimes it helps to make it a special event because it does not divide the audience.”
Kamody organized the event with Students For Liberty, who both had an interest in showing the film that has generated some controversy with Netflix.
“Our organization works to focus discussion on college campuses in regards to maximizing personal and economic freedom,” Fogarty said. “Students for Liberty gives funding and support to … hold events such as this aimed at promoting awareness of issues like police militarization and criminal justice reform.”