Creativity

A-List African-American Celebrities Are Up Against the Wall in This Powerful PSA Against Police Brutality

Michael B. Jordan, Michael K. Williams and Van Jones Appear in PSA for Harry Belafonte's Social Justice Organization Sankofa

By Ann-Christine Diaz. Published on Oct 17, 2016

Editor's Pick

A-List African-American celebrities have put themselves in a vulnerable position in an effort to call attention to the issue of police violence against people of color in this bold film from Sankofa, a social injustice foundation founded by Harry Belafonte.

Created out of Miami-based Bush/Renz, "Against the Wall" depicts actors including "Creed" headliner Michael B. Jordan, Michael K. Williams ("The Wire," "Boardwalk Empire"), artist Sophia Dawson, Hollywood vet Danny Glover, political activist and commentator Van Jones and Mr. Belafonte himself, in a beautiful but disturbing tableau.

The film cuts together simple scenes of each celebrity's face, shot close up, turned to the side with hands up and pressed against a concrete wall, each expressionless yet betraying a sense of somber resignation. It's all backed by a spare tune spliced with audio from officer dispatches and news reports recounting police shootings of people of color. The point hits home when we hear shots fired an and officer yelling "Target down!" and the camera turns sideways, showing Mr. Williams laying on the ground.

By placing faces we've witnessed on Hollywood screens big and small and in daily newscasts in an "out of context" scenario -- it powerfully illustrates the fears and risks that people of color -- no matter what their social strata -- may encounter on a daily basis.

The film was written and directed by Bush/Renz founders Christopher Renz and Gerard Bush. The pair didn't receive a brief, but had been contacted by Sankofa based on the agency's previous work, including that for Amnesty International and the MLK Memorial Foundation. "The only ask was that we create something that would jump start a conversation on the issue of police violence levied against black and brown people," Mr. Bush said.

As for what inspired the film, "we wanted to place celebrated faces within similar situations that black and brown people find themselves in far too often -- against the wall, on the ground, hands up, stripped of their dignity, their humanity reduced," said Mr. Bush. "We asked the actors and activist to imagine themselves alone with just a police spotlight and to replay in their minds that experience and the result was stunning and uncomfortable to watch -- which is the point."

You might think that wrangling the powerhouse lineup of talent may have been tricky, but Mr. Bush said that with Mr. Belafonte fronting the cause, "it was not difficult to get some of the best talent to participate, given his stature and potency of the concept."

Bush/Renz also recently got progressive, for a water brand, in this campaign for Icelandic water that riffed off the current election.

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About

Credits

Date
Oct 17, 2016
Agency:
Bush Renz Miami
Client:
Sankofa
Director:
Gerard Bush
Director:
Christopher Renz

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