The Hard Stop
Moving and insightful documentary about the controversial shooting of Mark Duggan
The words of Martin Luther King (‘A riot is the language of the unheard’) open George Amponsah’s sombre and stylish documentary, which looks at the 2011 police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham Hale, an incendiary act which had far-reaching repercussions when it provoked several days of civil unrest across England. Amponsah returns the focus to those close to Duggan, particularly his childhood pals Marcus Knox-Hooke and Kurtis Henville.
Combining news and CCTV footage, home videos and fly-on-the-wall observation with artfully shot inserts, it’s a visually diverse film that takes us behind the swagger to find a pair of men struggling to deal with their anger in the face of continued injustice, and striving to reinvent themselves in a society that provides them with scant opportunity to do so. Knox-Hooke makes a soulful centre: a convert to Islam, the fate of his friend prompted him to return to old ways. As he awaits sentencing for his part in the riots, he reflects sadly on what brought him here – ‘I've just been wasting my life,’ he concludes.
Henville, meanwhile, is eager to find honest work to support his family, commenting, ‘We’ve struggled a lot more since I’ve been straight.’ They might be far from squeaky clean but both men make sympathetic protagonists as we feel their frustration, the temptation to stray from a law-abiding path and the ongoing tension that mars their interactions with authorities. Although it looks to both the past and future, there’s little hope to be found; however, what The Hard Stop does offer is a sensitive study of the issues at hand, as it puts Duggan’s death in a thought-provoking, often heartbreaking context. Amponsah’s access and the intimacy of his insights make the film deeply personal, but carefully drawn out wider resonances mean that it doubles as a compassionate portrait of black masculinity in crisis.
Selected release from Fri 15 Jul.