What Happened When One Man Got Pulled Over By the Police

By  · Published on July 30th, 2015

Normally with a topical short film I’d drop some names that correspond with the subject at hand, but with the subject of police stops that end in tragedy, there are too many names to drop now. Samuel DuBose, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and on and on. So it goes.

Traffic Stop is an animated documentary directed by Gina Kamentsky and Julie Zammarchi where Alex Landau tells his own story about being pulled over by police, beaten, threatened and arrested. In case you need to go grab tissues now, he’s telling the story to his mother. Up until that night, the young black man raised by white parents had never seen the police as a threat or understood how he could be seen as a threat by others.

It’s also a short film about our nation’s identity, featuring a timestamp that might surprise some viewers. The traffic stop that changed Landau’s life happened in 2009, years before our current conversation (the most current conversation) about police brutality. Of course, it’s the same year that Oscar Grant was fatally shot at Fruitvale Station and decades after the Rodney King beating. So, in this dialogue, time isn’t a solid construct. Neither is our awareness.

This is a production from StoryCorps, an incalculably important project that archives stories from American life which seek to tell the whole muddied, beautiful tapestry beyond the apple pie sentimentality. Some of their stories are heartwarming, some are triumphant, some are aggravating, some are profoundly sad. All of them are structured as one person telling a friend, a family member, a loved one about their experience so that the other person has an opportunity to respond and add to the story.

They convert many of those conversations into animated short films, which you can see more of at their official site.

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