36 SECONDS is one of the great films of the year. It is one of the most important. In a world increasingly consumed by hatred this is a film of quiet power that simply explains why we are here, in this terible place where things like this can happen.
The film is the story of the murder of Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha by their neighbor in Chapel Hill North Carolina. The killer, whose name I will not mention, said it was an argument about a parking spot that got out of hand, however, as anyone who lived in the neighborhood knew, it was actually a hate crime aimed at wiping out the people he saw as ruining his life.
This film rocked me to my core. It's a film that began running before my eyes as just another documentary on a hate based crime and by the time it ended it had explained, better than any film or book, how something like this could happen. More importantly it lays open how police and prosecutors are more than willing to go with what the white guy says. Until the 36 second cellphone video was discovered, it was a heated argument over a parking spot.
Where the power of the film comes in is in the fact that director Tarek Albaba breaks down the mind of the killer (and society). Using the stories of the families, the neighbors and the police the film takes the words of the prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Kendra Montgomery-Blinn Albaba connects up the dots in what is a cinematic closing argument against racism. Why are people turning toward hate today? Because their dreams of a happy future are turning into a nightmare and it's easier to blame someone else for your misfortunes than it is to step up and fix the problem. It's all wishful thinking, since its assumed that if these "others" are gone their life would some how magically be better. Montgomery-Blinn lays it all out in such a way that you can't argue with it.
As I said above the film also takes the officials to task in the basic assumption that the white guy was right. Arrested almost immediately, because all the neighbors said he was probably the guy, the killer confessed that it was all an argument that went wrong. He was bold and confident, and certain that everyone was going to buy his bullshit. And for a while they did until people began to talk and cellphone video blew the story out of the water. Looking at both the local officials and the feds, who are pressured to prosecute the case as a hate crime, but end up dancing around it, the film finds officialdom lacking.
Sadly I know my words can not match the power of the film. In all seriousness Tarek Albaba has made one of the truly great, never mind best, films of the year and on racism. In simply and completely telling the story of three lost lives he has made a film that can act as a beacon for those wanting to stop the hatred. Simply put 36 SECONDS is the film we need now. It's a film that will stop you from wondering-how did we get to this world of hate, because it shows you what the problem is. It's a film that shows us how we can get stop it, if we just choose to open our eyes and see why.
I can not recommend this film highly enough.