« Hunting Like the Wolf | Main | Away From Him »

Fucked by Police

The BFI London Film Festival

Ultraviolence (2020)

There is not much more contemptible in documentary filmmakers than using the pain of others for their own aggrandizement. Ken Fero’s “Ultraviolence,” which is being marketed as an expose of deaths in British police custody from 1995 to 2006, does exactly and only this. Presumably it has been pushed to market these days in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement and the recent high-profile murders carried out by police in the United States. Do not be fooled – it is nothing of the sort. It’s merely a testament to the ego of the director, who felt entitled to cobble this travesty together because he went to the same school as one of the men whose memory he cannibalizes.

Those are strong, fighting words, and they are meant to be. A howl of rage against a state which can look at the video of Christopher Alder dying on the floor of a police station under the indifferent noses of several people and find no one responsible is the correct and proportionate reaction. But Mr. Fero doesn’t do this. He has the goddamn nerve to superimpose quotes from Pier Paolo Pasolini over the genuine footage of this real person’s death and talk about how pain is depicted in cinema. This is when I started throwing things. The selfishness and inarticulacy get worse as the film drags on – rants against the Iraq War are somehow conflated with the gruesome murder of innocent Jean Charles de Menezes by London police in 2005, and by the end, when he’s lost the plot, the famous Vietnam War footage of napalmed children is shown. It would all be embarrassing enough if Mr. Fero had limited his incoherent attempts at making a point against racism in the British police to footage from the public record. Instead, he insinuated himself into the support groups for some of the families seeking justice for state murder and exploits their grief and desperation for his own cause. And what cause is that? According to the voiceover, his personal superiority at denouncing state violence and encouraging his children to do the same. As for the families seeking justice, he is not so sure what they want, and goes so far as to say so. It’s disgusting.

This movie, which should not be called a documentary, is exploitative grief pornography made over the bodies of murder victims. Everyone involved in assisting Mr. Fero on bringing in to fruition should hang their heads in shame.


Post a comment

This weblog only allows comments from registered users. To comment, please Sign In.

© 2008-2020 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on Twitter | Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions