I write this note from an airport lounge on the way to yet another story of injustice - or justice depending on which angle you look at it. As always when I leave to do a difficult story, I am anxious to get access to it and then to get to the bottom of it. But tonight, more than anything else, I am inspired by what happened since my latest documentary film Stray Bullet launched on Netflix on July 15: https://www.netflix.com/title/80998908
4 years ago, we set out to tell the story of a young girl - Genesis - who had been hit by a stray bullet in the streets of Paterson. When their daughter passed away, Genesis' parents lost their source of inspiration, love and joy. And then, they lost everything they had built in Paterson. While they were trying to hold on to Genesis' memories, they opened welcomed us into their life. I will always remain deeply grateful for their courage and for their trust.
Genesis' parents needed to have that faith because they knew we were trying to tell the story of the stray bullet that had killed their daughter. That meant looking at the other side and going into the streets that had been fatal to Genesis. They did not know what would come out of that. Nor did the mothers, the relatives and the friends of the two young men who were accused of killing Genesis. These people showed the same courage when they too decided to share their story with us. We are really grateful to them too.
Stray Bullet is meant to be the mirror of what is going in the streets and in the courtroom. The film aims to show how the justice system and the community as whole is trying to deal with a stray bullet that killed an innocent 12-year-old girl on July 5, 2014, in Paterson.
In Stray Bullet, there is no hero and no villain. No one is trying to change the world, because everyone is trying to cope with it first. Stray Bullet is a journalistic film more than anything else. We did not try to make art out of the tragic story of Genesis, we just wanted to keep it as raw as possible. We wanted to show all sides, while making sure no one would be able to reach the closing credits without knowing who Genesis was.
We would not have been able to do it without the help of the participants in the film. We were able to speak to guys who have had to learn from a young age how to survive in the tough streets of Paterson. Some decided to tell their story methodically. Others like Knowledgeborn decided to "spit" it.
Tomorrow, I will be in the middle of Guatemala to cover another story of separation. I will hug the woman who agreed to share it with me and I will thank her, hoping she will be reunited with her children soon. But tonight, I first want to thank the participants of Stray Bullet. And I am thinking of Genesis who would have been 16 this year.