Film Review: Strong Island

The arrival of Netflix, and other streaming services, to our shores has heralded a new way of watching TV and films. It has also changed the way film distribution works. Whilst there’s a debate around theatrical versus streaming releases, it has allowed many directors to reach a wider audience. Netflix has a particularly strong offering in terms of true crime documentaries, especially Tower, Making of a Murderer, The Witness, Amanda Knox and Casting JonBenet. Yance Ford’s Strong Island is set to join them.

Growing up in Long Island, Yance Ford, his brother, sister and parents had a relatively settled, calm and quiet existence. However, their lives were rocked when brother William Jr. was shot dead in 1992 after an altercation at a local garage. Despite the identity of his killer being obvious, a grand jury found there was no case to answer. Indeed, William Jr. became the focus of the police investigation. Twenty years later, Yance Ford looks at the history of his family, the events of that day and the surrounding enquiry and the lasting effect it has had on all their lives.

Following on the heels of last year’s Oscar-nominated 13th, Strong Island is another sad indictment on race relations within America. Whilst it’s a historical case, it could have easily have happened today. Ford paints an intimate portrait of a family who are still struggling to come to terms with the events of that night. Their escape from racial segregation of the Jim Crow South to a different form of quiet discrimination in a supposedly middle-class area of New York. Strong Island is a powerful documentary about a divided country. Where equality is often a matter of colour.

Strong Island launches on Netflix UK on 15th September.

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