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The twin grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner roiled the city in November and December. Against this backdrop I began production on my first feature film, a lifelong dream. But if filmmaking is the act of creating a dream world, then raising one’s own voice amid a chorus/cacophony of others in protest felt both more real than anything else, and movie-like.

The footage above is from a protest that took place two weeks before we began shooting. Climbing the barrier to the FDR, stopping traffic both ways, then proceeding to “take” the Brooklyn bridge was surreal — the car horns blaring (some in support, some in opposition) were felt as much as heard. I took the top photo after a long week of production. Having missed a major protest in the city while filming that day, I was content to begin a weekend of relaxation. But from the apartment we heard helicopters, then distant chants. One branch of the march had reached our neighborhood and, well, history waits for no one.

The news that two NYPD officers had been killed in Brooklyn rippled through our film set another day — our location was not a ten minute drive from where it happened. Between takes small groups could be heard discussing the implications. But my mind was on the task at hand — we were filming a party scene that night, one of the most difficult on our schedule.

Our production finishes soon. It is a new year, but the jumble of emotions that is this moment in New York continues. The camera is one tool that sees both dreams and reality. I am learning to juggle the two.

© 2006 – 2024 Raafi Rivero.