In 1999 when Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man, was shot at 41 times by police officers in his own vestibule, in New York, we felt we had to get out there with a camera and talk to people for our own sanity, to understand what was happening. It was like the topic of this film chose us.
We were concerned about the high level of visibility of this topic, and the challenge was to find a unique angle on something that had had a lot of media coverage already. Then we found the mothers as a way in that was different, and decided to focus on their enormous transition from this terrible experience to speaking out for changes in policing, and decided to look at what was it in them that pushed them to do that.
We felt that it was not enough to make a documentary about police brutality alone. We wanted it to deal with these issues, but also to have a human component and an aspect of hope. The three mothers in Every Mother’s Son — Iris Baez, Kadiatou Diallo and Doris Busch Boskey — have found a resilience in themselves that is remarkable and can provide inspiration to others.
We have always been attracted to stories that explore large social and political questions through the intimate personal experiences of people affected by them. Policing was such a dense topic that we decided that focusing on New York City during the Giuliani years (1994-2001), and on the stories of three mothers (though they are part of a larger movement), would allow us to get at the big issues through a very personal lens.
Ultimately, we would like you to understand that police brutality is a problem that extends far beyond individual “bad cops.” Many of the problems facing us are systemic in that they have to do with policies that put police officers in situations where abuses are likely to take place. We would like to have Americans who don’t live in poor urban areas to have a sense of what people in these communities experience from the police on a daily basis. We know it would be shocking for many people to see how unequal policing is in terms of its effect on citizens.
Finally, we hope that this film will motivate you to take action to promote community policing, and to push for the creation of independent citizen review boards with enforcement capability and for the creation of independent prosecutor positions where they do not exist. We hope you join and work to build organizations that are fighting to reform policing in America.
— Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson
Postscript: Our dear friend and community activist Richie Perez died on March 27, 2004, shortly after we completed Every Mother’s Son. Richie was invaluable for his insights throughout the making of this film, and he will be missed by all the lives he touched during the three decades he fought tirelessly against police brutality.