Director: George Amponsah
Cast: Marcus Knox Hooke, Kurtis Henville
Watch The Hard Stop online in the UK: Netflix UK / BFI Player / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
If you don’t know what the title of The Hard Stop is referring to, you need to see this film. The term is the procedure used by police to force a suspect’s car to stop, by surrounding it on three sides with other vehicles. That is what was used to stop Mark Duggan in 2011, who was then shot by police – despite not carrying a gun.
The killing sparked anger in Tottenham, which erupted into a riot and a period of unrest, with a number of loots and protests occurring. George Amponsah’s documentary examines the build-up and aftermath of the incident.
Those expecting more details of how that night unfolded, how the police believed he was a threat, despite the gun in question being recovered far from the vehicle, or why he was stopped in the first place, will be disappointed, but this film does something perhaps more important than that: it examines the attempts of local residents to move on from Duggan’s death.
Amponsah follows two of Mark’s friends: Marcus Knox-Hooke and Kurtis Henville. Earning their trust and observing almost invisibly, the director crafts an insightful, nuanced portrayal of life in modern Britain. Marcus, we learn, took part in the riots and was ultimately sentenced for over a year. But he is more complex than the image that description conjures up – he initially tried to keep the riots non-violent, and has since turned to his Muslim faith for peace.
Kurtis Henville, meanwhile, explains that he could be making £500 a day dealing drugs and doing other dodgy activities, but instead, we watch him try to go straight and get a job at Tesco or Carphone Warehouse to support his family.
Both are growing up in an environment with a history of police violence – Amponsah’s film is also a study of Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate, which saw resident Cynthia Jarrett die while police searched her house in the 1980s. That incident also led to riots, during which a police officer was killed. The director shows Duggan’s death opening up those old wounds, capturing the underlying hatred and mistrust that exists between the police and the Tottenham community.
The perception of young black men is unavoidably a part of this, with the film also following the inquiry into Duggan’s death – and, more importantly, the local residents’ reaction to the verdict that he was lawfully killed. Adults insist that the younger people in their party respond calmly and respectfully, as anything else will stop them being taken seriously. Anger, though, is bubbling under the surface; Henville, who is often funny and very candid, erupts in rage when the police appear to mistreat his dog.
Five years on, now is a more pertinent time than ever to look back at the Tottenham riots, which have striking parallels with the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA, where guns are more readily available and incidents such as this occur on a regular basis. In that context, this is a vital piece of filmmaking that, while not unbiased in its view of Duggan’s death, dares to portray young black men as actual people rather than the damaging stereotype often found in the media, films and elsewhere. Throughout, Henville ends almost every sentence he speaks with the phrase “you get me?”, the kind of mannerism that could easily see him be dismissed by some people. But that mannerism has to come from somewhere. In the context of recent American events and the Tottenham riots, it comes across as a sincere request for people to listen and understand what he’s saying. The Hard Stop does both. It gets them. And that makes this an important documentary indeed.
The Hard Stop is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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