A documentary coming to public television focuses on a fact of life already familiar to parents and children of color: the need to be wary of the police.
Produced by WNET, The Talk takes its title and starting point from the discussions African-American and Latino parents have with their children about avoiding confrontations with police officers. Throughout its two hours, six pieces from different filmmakers and perspectives examine issues including how officers are trained, the effects of violence on families and what community outreach organizations are doing to address the problem.
“It’s like an underground, accepted family conversation, so we thought we would get that conversation out into the world to talk about it,” said Julie Anderson, e.p. of documentaries and development at WNET. “I think a lot of white families would never consider the things that primarily African-American families — and, to a lesser extent, Latino families — have to consider. Particularly when they have boys, although girls are not exempt from this kind of issue either.”
One mother, Anderson said, taught her African-American son to keep his driver’s license and registration on the dashboard when driving to avoid the appearance of reaching for a weapon if stopped by police. That’s “the talk.”
“Another woman told us she moved into a white neighborhood, and she took her son to the police station and introduced him to all the police officers so they would know he belonged there,” Anderson said. “These are things that a white family would never even think about.”
A segment of the documentary explores the case of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African-American boy shot by police in Cleveland after being seen in a park with a toy gun. The Talk includes video of Rice in the park and his shooting, with excerpts from the 911 call and police radio communications. Then it moves on to the fallout.
Anderson is leading production of the film in partnership with Academy Award–nominated producer and director Sam Pollard. Pollard has won Emmys for his work on the HBO documentaries When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and By the People: The Election of Barack Obama.
Each piece of the two-hour film was created by a different producer or team of producers. CPB contributed $1.2 million to production.
The Talk also features celebrities, including Kenya Barris, e.p. and creator of ABC’s Black-ish, which aired a critically acclaimed episode last year about “the talk.” Other celebrities who appear include director John Singleton, rapper Nas, actress Rosie Perez and New York Times columnist Charles Blow.
The celebrities show up in interstitials dispersed throughout The Talk. In these clips, directed by Pollard, the personalities will share their own experiences with racism.
“We wanted to have some voices talk about their own personal experiences in terms of race in America,” Pollard said of the two-minute interstitials. “They all tell a personal story that connects us.”
The celebs are also expected to help drum up support for the project on social media leading up to release, Anderson said. “We’d like to just get a conversation started that can lead up to the broadcast,” she said. “It’s more than just a two-hour documentary project.”
Anderson said she hopes that local broadcasters, especially in communities where pieces were filmed for the doc, will be receptive to partnering on outreach leading up to the premiere.
“These documentaries that I work on should not just live only on television,” Pollard said. “They should not just come on television, you see it, and they go away. A documentary like this needs to be seen in community centers, in churches and in cities across the country.”