Constrain

Constrain is a short film envisioning police oppression as theatre. We are all players in this piece of theatre, just without our consent, never knowing when we are stepping on stage. I know that synopsis makes it sound pretentious, but it is actually very powerful and very effective.

As shown in the initial shot, the images in the film are created through motion capture on a green screen. We are presented with blueprints of a cityscape becoming a 3D model. A neighbourhood reduced to road markings, box buildings, and edges. This is the field of play. This is the theatre of engagement.

In this theatre only you are a player. Only you act. The human figure injected into this world runs, crouches, lies face down, holds its hands up. It is dragged, kicked, hit, choked. What is doing this is absent in the image. Only the player is responsible for its actions.

It reminds me of the innumerable murdered victims of police violence. Who killed all those people? 41 bullets were shot at Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man on his own doorstep. All those believed responsible for his murder were acquitted. So who murdered him? No one. Philando Castille was shot 5 times in the chest at close range, with his murder livestreamed on Facebook for all to see. The person we all watch kill him was acquitted. No one is held accountable for his death. Eric Garner gasped out, “I can’t breathe” as he was strangled to death in the street among a crowd of witnesses and on film. No one was ever charged with his murder. All these men, they all died from nothing.

In Constrain, the figure is deliberately neutral. It has the shape of a face, a body, but these are featureless, erased of gender or race. As the figure acts out its part, runs, is beaten, is cuffed. As we see it imprisoned, attempt to evade capture, run off rooftops, we know exactly who we are seeing. The film chooses to make the area and the figure as generic as possible. In doing so, the more it obscures the more obvious it is.

The big question is who is this theatre for? Us. We are both audience and actor. The more we see how this will play out, the more we know how to act.

In ten short minutes, a powerful representation of what is missing, and why it is missing, when we describe the violence of the police.