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Plot:

Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change.

Also Known As: Σκοτάδι στο Λονγκ Άιλαντ, Strong Island - A Morte do Meu Irmão, Стронг-Айленд, Strong Island

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  • frederick-barrett
    frederick barrett

    What makes this a very good piece of film making is not the documentary story telling but the very good and interesting cinematography and direction. In my opinion it should not be compared to the classic Netflix criminal documentaries such as The Making of A Murderer, as this is visually and conceptually at a different quality level. But I do agree, sometimes the script is a bit slow and not fully believable.

  • orina-korpaniuk
    orina korpaniuk

    Firstly, I don’t in any way purport to be a film reviewer – that said after watching this excellent film I was already feeling compelled to lodge a review for it – this was further amplified when I saw what I believe are extremely unfair negative reviews featuring prominently – and my strong suspicion is that these reviews are motivated by racism, hatred and complete ignorance. And I say this as a white middle aged man, who lives outside America but there is no way a fair minded person could watch this wonderful film and give it 1-4 stars – they’ve a clear axe to grind. e.g one of the reviews almost IMMEDIATELY flagging that the film maker is a transgender…..what does that have to do with ANYTHING?The films arc is somewhat unconventional in that it focuses heavily on pulling the viewer inside the family – showing you who they were, how they came to be, what they went through to get where they were etc etc. It humanises them and allows them to be seen as vulnerable, imperfect people like the rest of us. I find it very odd that people see this as too slow paced or boring – I’m no soft touch but even I was moved and affected by the way this mosiac was painted.The structure of the story telling sometimes seems a tad convoluted as it moves back and forth perhaps not giving as much info as one would like but it works well in the end. I’m again shocked some reviews feel the interviewees were acting (incredibly insulting – if anything I felt is was clearly raw emotional and absolutely genuine), the facial closeups are because the entire film is about the effect of the tragic loss of William on their family – nothing shows this more affectingly than the faces of the people closest to it. And finally that people had the poor judgement to accuse the interviewees of racist tones etc – is just outrageous & sadly like most of such comments far more telling about those who wrote them. I found the poise & balance in the story telling & interviewees pretty amazing given the events that occurred on top of what I am sure I can’t really even slightly empathise with – that is being a person of colour in a deeply racist country.Although it’d have been easy to give it a 10 to ‘balance out’ what I feel are stupidly low scores motivated by numerous hatreds, I’ve tried to be true and given it an 8. I agree the editing isn’t as good as it could be in a few minor spots, I found the very upbeat closing credit music choice quite jarring given the rather somber conclusion (though felt it might have had personal relevance to the maker/family) and agree that a bit more Errol Morris type expert interviews on the self defence laws, interpretation of the autopsy etc would have been a terrific counter to the phenomenal emotional depth of the film.I won’t include any spoilers but it truly is a superb film – I watch a lot of feature docus and whilst i wouldn’t say this is the best I’ve seen it’s several hours very well invested if you’re open to empathising with others and can put prejudices and preconceptions aside (which I believe several other reviewers clearly have not been able to do). I’m shocked it’s currently only got a ~6.5 rating….it’s a 8-9 IMHO and my wife felt the same way. I hope to see more from the filmmaker in the future and thank him for sharing this deeply personal story with the world – I believe it’s important and extremely thought provoking both socially and as a person.

  • diana-nauseda
    diana nauseda

    Although this film moved slowly, I found the story to be compelling. The director,s brother is killed by someone with whom he has only a sketchy history. The facts of the case were vague which increased the bad feelings in the family, but the father,s hopelessness from the start is heart breaking. To a white person, the race factor is a point of contention, but we don,t know what it’s like to have to better, brighter, than someone of a different race just to be in the running. Racial bias in the U.S. Is a daily occurrence for people of color. We don.t see it because we don’t experience it. Try being a woman in a man’s job or gay for a day in a straight workplace, then you’ll have a taste of discrimination.

  • mira-viljevac
    mira viljevac

    Watched about 20 minutes of this and all it was telling me was a history of US racism. I thought this was supposed to be about a miscarriage of justice. Very misleading

  • dmitriev-khariton-feodosevich
    dmitriev khariton feodosevich

    Oscar Nominations:Documentary FeatureMy father was an attorney and he used to say that you knew that a court case had been decided correctly when both parties to the lawsuit left the courthouse unhappy. It has taken me decades to understand exactly what that means, but I have come around to understand, like we often do about our fathers, that he was exactly right.I’ve been a party to two major civil lawsuits in my life and, in both cases, I have felt that the judge’s decision, while not exactly against me, ended up not giving me the satisfaction I felty I deserved – the decisions seemed faulty and unjust.That is what happens in the documentary Strong Island, the story about William Ford Junior who is killed in a garage after a misunderstanding with the mechanic there. Reilly, the mechanic, pulls a .22 rifle on the young man and, in a set of very unlucky circumstances, fires a single, fatal shot to Ford’s heart. There are a number of unusual and tragic aspects to the story, but, in the end, and after a long criminal court case, Reilly is found innocent and that he acted in self-defense.The film is produced and narrated by Yance Ford who was/is William’s sibling and who is motivated by a profound sense of injustice in the case to try and understand why Reilly was freed. (In an unusual twist that makes the movie additionally intriguing, Yance is transgender and becomes a man in the years between when his/her brother was killed and when he makes the movie. Although his gender shift is not materially relevant to the story, it, nonetheless adds an intriguing undercurrent about the mutability of perception.). Yance is convinced that his brother was murdered and has difficulty reconciling his beliefs and feelings about his brother with the outcome of the judicial system.To confound the situation even more, the Williams are a black family and Reilly, who is white, is also part of what appears to be a sleazy chop-shop operation with possible connections to organized crime. It also becomes obvious that institutional racism plays a big part in the outcome of the story (surprise, surprise).Besides being a difficult and emotional story, the movie works in many ways and Yance has done a masterful job crafting an effective documentary. The movie employs a novel technique of telling important details by presenting old, often bent, photographs of the people and events in the family’s history. The snapshots are surprising in how effective they are in deepening our understanding of the family and their history, moving from the Jim Crow south to the racially segregated enclave in Suffolk County Long Island. (The title “Strong Island” comes from a rap song where that term denotes the white gangs on the island, of which Reilly was possibly a member.)A second technique Yance employs is to layer the information. As the story begins to unfold, we are presented with the information just as it might have been presented to the grand jury. But Yance only gives us enough so that we will obviously see things from his point of view. And from that point of view, it is clear that the grand jury’s failure to indict Reilly is an obvious case of institutional racism. But then, there is the ‘Corvette incident’. At first it really isn’t clear that this was a big deal at all. In fact, as Yance tells it, we understand that it represents a time when, as his sister, she had immense pride and respect for what her brother did. Slowly, though, it dawns on him (as he is filming this movie) that it was much more than that – it was the reason that his notion of justice was not to happen.In the end, Strong Island illustrates that, despite how obvious events might appear to one group of people, when the story is told to uninvolved strangers (a grand jury), the situation gets interpreted very differently, and what is ‘justice’ to one person, is just not seen that way by someone else. And so the Ford family is not happy with the court decision. Was justice served? It depends on who you ask.Strong Island is a thought-provoking and well crafted documentary. It operates almost like a mystery, exposing layers of information that make the case so much more interesting. It also effectively portrays a family in tragedy and the personal journeys family members must make in trying to reconcile tragic events and their own values. It is seldom easy.

  • hernan-altamirano-correa
    hernan altamirano correa

    Incredibly moving documentary, the outrage of the family can (rightfully) be felt througout the entire film. Beautifly shot. Still, it leaves a lot to be desired and is confusing at times – the story of her brother helping the DA who got shot is someting that needed a lot more time, going more into the event(s) that led up to the killing of William etc. Some parts are just confusing – what would be different if she had told her brother of her orientation, it took me a bit to understand it was his diary she was reading (for a moment there I though it was hers). I would definitely want to see and hear more (perhaps in several episodes) about him, perhaps hear from a someone serving on the jury (if possible) etc. If the entire point of it was to humanize the vicitim and carry on the memory of him, it has been achieved. But I cannot shake the feeling that there was a lot more that could be said.

  • anna-hanninen
    anna hanninen

    This documentary wasn’t great but the sad story really got into me, maybe bcz I did not have a happy family either…….

  • zohrab-azhtehanyan
    zohrab azhtehanyan

    While being a well made and emotionally charged documentary, I completely failed to see the racial injustice in the story. A white man killed a black man, that much is true. However the testimony of his best friend who was present, the detective, and even the maker of the documentary, clearly state that the deceased had twice confronted the accused in an aggressive manner, causing the fear necessary for a clear case of self defence. I am fully aware that instances of racial injustice are an everyday occurrence in the U.S, however the only way you will see one in this film is if you want to.

  • vilem-stepanek
    vilem stepanek

    This documentary, I feel, is very important to watch. So often, we see crime shows or read the news, and you just hear about the “murder victim”. Maybe you hear about that person that lost their life, maybe you make your assumptions about them, and maybe you move on with your day. You don’t hear about WHO that person was, and what an actual loss it was. My uncle was murdered, and it’s just salt in the wound when you read articles about it and he is just a “victim”. Not a baby in his mother’s belly, not a happy, playful toddler, and a cool older brother.. not a smart, talented, loving human.. just a victim. This documentary is important for more reasons than even I can understand. I implore others to watch it, and hopefully come out the other side a little more thoughtful and aware.

  • zori-t-amazyan
    zori t amazyan

    A Oscar nominated documentary from 2017. It entails the trek to Long Island by the Fords, an African American family & how during their stay, the elder son tragically lost his life during a verbal altercation w/a white individual. One night out, the son was driving his vehicle when a tow truck, w/its lights out, collided w/him prompting the owner to offer his body shop’s services to make repairs. As weeks drove on & hostilities began to surface, the son made an ill-timed decision to confront the owner of the repair establishment leading to one of the employees to pull out .22 rifle & fire, killing the son instantly. We follow Yance Ford’s journey in trying to glean some meaning by her brother’s death especially from all accounts he was a thoughtful & respected man even intervening in another occasion apprehending a person who was the perpetrator of a shooting. The subject matter is heart wrenching but ultimately I have to judge the film by its construction & not by its importance which I think is evidenced by the unusual decision to begin a recap of a particular event near the doc’s last 15 minutes making the film feel like its spinning its wheels as it were but if one can overlook this lapse in presentation then this potent story is another all too familiar modern discourse of our current racial polemics.

  • matthew-santana
    matthew santana

    This documentary turned out to be nothing more than people talking way too much. And the sister my God she was so annoying. This was terrible.

  • bayan-hayel-rehime-karadeniz
    bayan hayel rehime karadeniz

    Moving and incredibly honest portrayal of The Ford family’s tragedies resulting from racial segregation. Some questions left unanswered: Who was Lesline and did the family get the car back.Any mother raising sons prays to get through that difficult period from 14 or 15 to full maturity. This exemplar American family almost made it.But local corruption put a monster in its path: the corrupt Datre family, and the cops they owned. How could a grand jury not return a true bill for mot murder but manslaughter if the fix was not in or the jury was not dominated by racists?Why should one stupid outburst of anger negate justice for a young man who risked his life to apprehend a mugger? Was this testimony included about William’s last day?Very thought provoking.

  • turins-niks
    turins niks

    “Strong Island” is one of the worst documentary features I have come across in many years. Yance Ford, a transgender, has credentials: He worked as a series producer at PBS for ten years; he was named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film; he was also the recipient of a Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellowship. And he produced and directed this movie which is about as personal a film anyone could ever make, a film investigating the 1992 murder of his brother, William Ford. Or, at least, that’s what it was purported to be about.Amateurishly edited, and without coming to anything remotely resembling a point, the film has close-ups of family members slowly speaking in annoying monotone, rambling on in various digressions: references to racism that seemed haphazard; discussing what they like to eat; the difficulty in coming to terms with sexuality; how their family loves each other – anything it seems except the murder investigation. It is completely without focus, mostly boring, and consequently hard to sit through. Even worse: The filming seems so contrived, and the interviewees so obviously ‘trying to act,’ that it sometimes seems like a mockumentary instead of a documentary. It’s bad, there’s no other way to say it. I try to ask myself how a talented filmmaker could make a documentary so sophomoric and continuously uninteresting, and I come up with nothing. But I don’t blame Yance Ford because I assume he tried to do something different and merely fell on his butt. What I DON’T understand is how the Academy of Arts and Sciences could seriously nominate a stinker like this for Best Documentary Feature. Weren’t there better documentaries around? Even your iPhone home movie is bound to be better than “Strong Island”!

  • kerstin-hedberg
    kerstin hedberg

    Pros: Well shot, cool aesthetics.Cons: Basically everything else.. Very confusing plot, very slow moving and boring. Lots of racist tones. Wouldn’t suggest watching it.. Especially if you’re like and have to finish whatever you start even if it’s painstakingly slow and fairly annoying..

  • thomas-torres
    thomas torres

    I believe in black lives matter, white privilege, systemic racism, the injustice with which black men are treated…and I still don’t like this decent looking, well-intentioned, but overtly manipulative doc.

  • emil-ochnio
    emil ochnio

    ‘Strong Island’ clearly divides people. I don’t think it’s as bad as some make out, but rather a touchingly honest and reflective account of how a family unravelled in the aftermath of a tragedy. References are made to the racism of the incident and possible implications in the investigation. I don’t know enough about the case, and I don’t think the intention of Yance Ford was to take it apart and contest it, although there were references to flaws in the justice system. The mother’s account of the covert racism in the courts was quite powerful but in my opinion didn’t ‘fit’ with the overall message of the film.Rather, Ford’s account of her brother’s killing and the events following it focuses on human-level tragedy rather than criminal justice (lack of) and social motives … the phone scenes are jaw-dropping, actually, see the film for yourself …

  • paula-colon
    paula colon

    Just watched “Strong Island” and I loved and hated it. It talks about the stories of family members who went through racism and have died from the ignorance of people who thought what they were doing was correct. This documentary makes me thankful I wasn’t around in the time of more intense racism that beats African Americans down, because with the personality I have I feel I would have been killed already. But it was deep to hear the stories of these people. I loved it for talking about the history, but hated it because there was time like this.

  • semrin-bilge-sensoy
    semrin bilge sensoy

    This was an almost 2 hour documentary which gave very little insight to the crime. I am sorry for the agony these folks have gone thru and can understand the need to tell their story but this was not something I would recommend to my friends and family. The movie was long drawn out with too much personal feelings and over causing and slow dialogue and no real substance. I couldn’t watch the entirety of this and to fast forward just to get to the end.

  • soboleva-fiokla-ilinichna
    soboleva fiokla ilinichna

    Slow, prodding, and full of false assumptions. This lazy documentary is full of repetitious and false narratives that never make it’s point. Character after character repeats themselves in slow boring detail, while adding nothing to the narrative. Was he a good man? Yes, he was a good man. Pause…, pause….. He was indeed a good man. He was a very fine good man. Pause….snore, wait, … He was so good. He was pause, pause, pause …….good. He did some good things….he did not help rob the ATM man. That was never proven….He was my brother and by the way, he was a good man, except when he was throwing vacuum cleaners and car doors around in order to threaten others. I admired him then… pause. My bad…. pause………..Oh, and by the way, I am a lesbian and he was nice to me, so there!? Did the main character, a 260 pound overweight black male, scare a chop shop white criminal into shooting him dead in self defense after being assaulted once before? I was not on the Grand Jury but, after seeing this film, I would would say “yes!”.

  • iulia-dinu
    iulia dinu

    Just my random thoughts after watching it.First, I wanted to like this movie, but man, was it awful. It was way too slow, i.e. boring. It had a problem figuring out what the movie was about. It constantly digressed from what I thought it was about, i.e. the investigation of a “unjust” murder.Instead, they on and on about how they grew up, what they ate, how much they loved each other. It didn’t help they spoke in melodramatic slow tone. Once you think the set up of who the family is, is over, they go back and basically repeat it. The problem is having a family member make a movie about an emotional topic that hit close to their home, but very few others care about. They go back to how racism in the south decades earlier, despite it having no affect on this particular killing. This movie should have been about the murder and IF it was unjust, show it. We hear nothing from the other side, so imagine OJ making a documentary about the killing of Nicole and Ron and imagine how that would go.She calls the detective and he says he will get back to her when he finds out more, and then right after, she already concludes why he wasn’t indicted.The bottom line I got from this. White people are racist and black people are victims. That was the theme throughout. There is nothing worse than watching a film where I am suppose to feel bad for the victim, but I am instead annoyed and have very little sympathy.You kinda get a sense from the opening what you are dealing with as the DA seemed really annoyed with Yance Ford, that she may have been a pain in the butt.Just a bunch of unrelated stories. That movie had no focus. It felt angry and a LOT of “feelings expressed” that never matched any evidence. It was self defense, much like so may cases where race is blamed for the killing. This could have been 20 minutes long.Save your time.

  • mary-thompson
    mary thompson

    Unfortunately this was painted to be a compelling story of mis-justice that was then solved or at least contested but it was nothing more than a diary or almost autobiography of someone we’d never heard of. The constant reference to Racism in the families past was almost building up to some sort of mis-justice due to race or color but that didn’t seem to be the case. There was parts talking about the struggle of coming to terms with sexuality and growing up which seemed completely irrelevant to the confusing story line that zigzagged at the speed of a snail. Don’t get my wrong its a sad story, no one should be murdered and no one should have to deal with a death in family but I just couldn’t help but feel this documentary was almost the director/producers way of dealing with it rather than it shedding any light on a given subject. This was almost a professionally shot YouTube video certainly not fit for mainstream Netflix.

  • kailaash-vikaavi
    kailaash vikaavi

    Strong Island, a documentary chronicling the 1992 murder of first-time filmmaker Yance Ford’s brother, William Ford Jr., and the effect it had on him and his family, incorporates the dynamics of a police-like procedural and gut-wrenching, upfront, self- confession. Ford grew up as a woman but more recently transitioned as a man. His transgenderism is not central to the story but (as is the case with all members of the Ford family), adds to the overall verisimilitude of the narrative, highlighting a distinctive individuality. Ford presents the family history in a highly effective, novel way. Instead of projecting old snapshots on the full screen, the actual photos are presented by Ford in his own hand against a white backdrop, and then scooped up as various narrators relate the story behind each image. Central to the narrative is Ford’s mother, Barbara Dunmore, who was interviewed over a number of years, prior to her death (Ford’s unflinching presentation doesn’t shield us from viewing the mother, even when she’s emaciated, lying on her deathbed). Dunmore proves to be a fascinating and tragic figure—a long time teacher who later became a principal at Thomas Jefferson HS in Brooklyn and then worked on Riker’s Island educating female inmates.We learn from Dunmore how the family moved to the black enclave of Central Islip on Long island, mainly designed for upwardly mobile, black civil servants. Dunmore hated being there as it was a segregated community. She relates how her husband, William Ford Sr., took a job as NYC subway motorman–ultimately it’s the effect of their son’s death that left them (as well as their two daughters) reeling. Soon after the son’s death, the father had a stroke and never really recovered. As we learn more about the victim, it becomes clear that his death is an unimaginable tragedy. Ford reads excerpts from his brother’s diary and we learn he had applied to become a NYC Correction Officer. There are interviews with two former Kings County Assistant District attorneys—one of whom was a shooting victim in Brooklyn. It was William Ford Jr., a year before his death, who tackled the man who shot the ADA and held him until the police arrived. All this takes us to the most riveting aspect of the film: the circumstances of William Ford Jr.’s death. From Yance Ford’s point of view, his brother was the victim of an injustice based on racism. I would have to agree there was injustice here but am not completely sold that everything that happened was solely due to racism. It’s completely understandable why Ford and his family would feel that way, and I certainly don’t fault him for having those feelings.Nonetheless, the facts of the case point to a different explanation. It’s hard for the filmmaker to acknowledge that her brother used very poor judgment when he took his car to a chop shop to be repaired after the people who ran the shop were the ones responsible for the accident that damaged his car. The driver, 19 year old Mark Reilly, had assured William that the car would be repaired quickly but after a few weeks dragged on, it became clear that either Reilly and his associates had no intention of fixing the car or were simply dragging their feet. Reilly had some choice words for William’s mother when she went down to the shop to make the needed inquiries—and those words were basically curses that William got wind of.William later went down to the shop with a friend and had some choice words of his own for Reilly and the shop’s owner. Yance Ford only reveals this later on but William was quite angry, threw a vacuum cleaner to the ground and picked up a car door, and assumed a menacing stance for a short time. So when William and his best friend came back on the night of April 7, 1992, it was his intention to pick the car up; unbeknownst to William, the car had already been picked up by his mother. William told the shop’s owner that if he ever became an officer, he would see to it that the shop was closed down. Seconds later, he entered the shop where he was shot by Mark Reilly.Was William shot because he was black, or as Reilly later told the grand jury (who ultimately refused to indict) because he feared for his life? It’s instructive to look at the 2006 case of homeowner John Harris White, a black man who was confronted by a mob of teenagers who had a beef with his son, outside his house. Like William Ford’s killer, White didn’t call 911. In this case, White went outside his home and ending up shooting a 17 year old white teenager in the face, killing him. Unlike in the Ford case, there were many witnesses to the shooting, and White was convicted of manslaughter but was only sentenced to 2-4 years in prison. This outraged the victims’ parents. To add insult to injury in their eyes, White was pardoned by outgoing Governor Patterson in 2010. Both Reilly and White argued that they feared for their life. Was racism a factor in each case or fear? The bottom line is that both of these individuals had guns for self- protection, but used their firearms instead to kill innocent people, after misreading the intentions of their victims. I would argue it’s the gun culture that led to tragedy in each case, not necessarily racism.Strong Island is a must-see documentary which chronicles a family tragedy in a highly original, creative way. There is perhaps no better argument for gun control than this illuminating work of art!

  • sandi-horvat
    sandi horvat

    I wanted this to be The Thin Blue Line. It wasn’t. That’s a pretty high bar for a doc. I was probably being unfair. But I was disappointed. The families rage at the murder of their son/brother came through. But the story of what happened didn’t. It just felt like rage. Understandable, but not what I want in a doc.

  • zarowhi-garaseferyan
    zarowhi garaseferyan

    Anybody who has read the synopsis knows this documentary is about the killing of young black man by a white man who was never convicted of his murder. It’s the story of a family and friends still dealing with the grief, the loss and most of all, the injustice and inability to do anything about it. It’s heartbreaking and their strength in dealing with the injustice is to be admired. The outcome of a white man walking free for murdering a black man in 1992 is hardly surprising and it should give everyone pause that it’s still not surprising today, 25 years later. It’s not an easy film but it’s a worthwhile film.

  • brittany-marks
    brittany marks

    The whole point of this documentary is to humanize the victim and show the viewers the human side of this story. It just baffles me how some people here couldn’t grasp this simple emotional-based point. We do need more of this kind of documentaries for us to feel each other’s pain.