All These Sons – Tribeca Festival – World Premier

Last year gun violence reached an all-time high in Chicago with 769 homicides. And the numbers promise to be even worse this year.  While the city is spending millions of dollars a day on policing high-crime neighborhoods, two grassroots organizations are taking a different approach to stemming the tide of violence and saving the lives of young Black men. All These Sons tells their story in a powerful 88 minutes.

For months, filmmakers Bing Liu (Oscar-nominated for Minding the Gap) and Joshua Altman (Award-winning editor) embedded themselves in the MAAFA Redemption Project and the Inner-City Muslim Action Network as well as the lives of three young men, Shamont, Charles, and Zay. Their mission was to dig deep into their stories as well as the issues that plague the city. This was not a documentary that could be told from the outside. As Liu said, they wanted the film participants to see that they weren’t making a film on them but with them.  And they do it in stunning fashion, exposing raw emotions, the long-lasting trauma of violence and murder, the cycle of shattered families, as well as the young men’s friendships, dreams, and aspirations.  

The MAAFA Redemption Project in Chicago’s West Garfield Park, recruits at-risk “kids” and gives them housing, employment, educational opportunities, and social services. The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), on the South side of Chicago, fosters health, wellness and healing in the inner-city by organizing for social change, exposing residents to the arts, and operating a holistic health center. Beyond that, both organizations give local young men skills, direction, and a clear sense of self. 

Marshall Hatch, Jr. (Founder of MAAFA) and Billy Moore (IMAN Case Manager) also act as father figures to the young men, sometimes reprimanding them, other times challenging them, but always offering support and working with them to push the limits of who they can be. It’s a story that Moore knows well. He was a convicted felon serving a 20-year sentence when his own son was born. He vowed that when he got out of prison, he would be there for him. But that dream was short-lived when his son was shot and killed. The empathy he has with the young men in his program is palpable. 

From a filmmaking standpoint, this documentary is a gem. The camera work is intimate and revealing, the old news footage is integrated seamlessly, and the sax melodies strike just the right mood. The message of forgiveness, redemption, and the power of relationships comes through loud and clear.

This is not an easy film to watch. It can be brutal and heart-wrenching. There is no quick fix for what’s ailing Chicago, its inner-city neighborhoods, its gun violence, or its young men. It will take years and years of work. But, as this film makes clear, there are some rays of hope. 

All These Sons is available for screening on the Tribeca Press Portal through June 20, 2021.

Top photo: Shamont Slaughter (left) Marshall Hatch, Jr. [MAAFA]

About Paula M. Levine (40 Articles)
Paula is an award-winning writer, producer, and storyteller who has spent over twenty years producing news, feature stories, documentaries, and web content. Since 2014, she has also taught Writing and Media Relations at NYU in their Masters Program in PR and Corporate Communication. In her "copious spare time", she runs, bikes, and swims; and has completed 7 NYC Marathons.