The Hard Stop

 

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The killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham provides the spine for a wider view of what it means to be black and young in this area of London today.

 
Hard Stop, The
  

There can be no doubt at all that many will welcome this documentary feature by George Amponsah which seeks to explore on street level the experiences of black youths living in Tottenham who fully believe that the London police cannot be trusted. In particular it follows over two years or so the lives of Marcus Knox Hooke and Kurtis Henville who grew up on the Broadwater Farm Estate, but the key element is the killing in that area of 29-year-old Mark Duggan shot by the police when they sought to arrest him in August 2011. Claims made that it happened during a shoot out were quickly retracted, but that did not settle the issue of whether or not Duggan was armed and his family were determined to press for a full investigation and an apology.

 

In telling this story, the film looks back to the 1985 riot during which a police constable was killed in the same area as being all too relevant to these later events. The Hard Stop has on the face of it material as compelling as the racial killing of the African/American Jordan Davis in Florida in 2012 which was the subject of the brilliant 2015 documentary 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets. There too the self defence issue became crucial but, whereas in that case the truth did emerge beyond doubt and the filmmaker had access to compelling court hearings, Amponsah is outside the court doors and can only surmise.

 

To compensate The Hard Stop seeks to tell us in some detail about the lives of Marcus and Kurtis, both reformed men trying to go straight, but with Marcus charged with instigating the riots of 2011 and ending up with a 32 months jail sentence and with Kurtis failing to obtain work locally and finding his marriage in jeopardy.  This is all part of the black experience, but it takes the focus away from the Duggan case despite adding to our understanding of the anger and resentment felt by the likes of Marcus and Kurtis. The film is clearly a challenge to the police over their probity and there may well be good evidence to justify that. This, however, is a piece that is overtly eager to endorse the view that the verdict of the court enquiry in 2013 in refusing to declare the killing of Duggan unlawful was perverse. Whatever the film’s insights in other respects, it needed a more strenuous investigation on this issue and a more direct focus.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring: Marcus Knox Hooke, Kurtis Henville.

 

Dir George Amponsah, Pro Dionne Walker and George Amponsah, Ph George Amponsah, Colin Elves and Matthias Pilz, Ed James Devlin and Michael Aaglund, Music Roger Goula.

 

BFI/Bertha Foundation/Ga Films-Metrodome.
86 mins. UK/USA. 2015. Rel: 15 July 2016. Cert. 15.