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LBB Film Club: Silence Is Violence



Jon Krippahne and Justin Joo, creatives at 72andSunny, placed footage of current day race demonstrations next to footage of decades ago to starkly highlight that equality is still needed, writes Addison Capper

LBB Film Club: Silence Is Violence
"Silence is violence. That’s a phrase I’ve chanted at protests, in the face of cops who look just like me."

As Jon Krippahne, an art director at 72andSunny New York, began protesting more and more, he began to realise that it wasn't just police officers that needed to hear the above message. "It was friends, family members, and anyone else whose privilege protected them from the realities of racial injustice," he writes on Vimeo. 

So he and his creative partner Justin Joo, a copywriter at 72andSunny New York, made this film that's simple in concept but extremely meticulous - and powerful - in its execution. Using eerily similar side-by-side footage of recent demonstrations and events from decades ago, Jon and Justin prove that equality never came in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was introduced in the United States.

"Share this video with people in your life that need to wake up. More importantly, listen to black people."

LBB's Addison Capper chatted with Jon and Justin to find out more about how the film came together. 

LBB> What was the starting point for this project? When and why were you compelled to make this film?

Jon> I started seeing an influx of horrific videos on police brutality. People shining a light on these injustices all over social media; it was completely inescapable. I always knew it was there, but the magnitude was really overwhelming. I remember seeing one video in particular, I think it was in Philly, of a huge crowd of protesters that were cornered against a highway fencing getting smoke bombed by police. It was so hard to watch, and it immediately reminded me of civil rights era footage when they would firehose innocent protesters. Like visually they seemed identical. Violent, heartless cheap shots that made my blood boil. So when those images clicked in my mind I knew we had an idea.

I also grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in New Jersey and recently I’ve been hearing some really ignorant things from people in my life trying to discredit this movement. I wanted to make something that would open their eyes, because I was sick of arguments going nowhere. 

LBB> Why did you decide on this concept? Why was it important for you to focus on the past, and its similarities to the modern day?

Justin> The first time Jon and I went protesting, we couldn’t help but notice the drastic similarities of images and footage we’ve seen from the civil rights era. From the marches, to protest signs, leaders giving speeches, and of course, crowds of people being brutalised by the police. And as we stood there in support, we couldn’t help but ask how anybody could refute the racial injustice still happening today. Juxtaposing the past with the present was our way of proving that equality never came in 1964. It was our simple and irrefutable way to get people to wake up.

LBB> What aims did you go into the project with?

Justin> At first, our aim was to target anybody not speaking out against racism. But as time passed, we started to notice a drop in people showing up to protests, and people slowly getting back to posting regular content on social media. We were even reading articles about corporations and influencers hopping on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon, while it was still ‘relevant’. That’s when we discussed finessing our end line to be ‘Join the movement, not the moment’. To speak more directly at people taking their foot off the gas pedal. We really just want to light a fire under people to keep fighting as hard as we have been for the last three weeks. 

Jon> Our goal was to show people, especially white people, that as much as we want to believe equality came in 1964 it’s so far from the truth. We want people to confront their privilege, understand it, and do something about it. Silence is violence.

LBB> What were your main inspirations with regards to the feel and the aesthetics of the film?

Jon> We talked about intercutting instead of split screening to confuse the viewer more and blur the lines between the eras, but ultimately we wanted this to be super simple and leave nothing up to interpretation. The side-by-side allows you to see the eerie similarities between the two eras in the most efficient way. Matching each clip side-by-side we thought added to the shock value. 

LBB> This is a remarkable piece of filmmaking, purely from a research point of view! Firstly, when did you land on the idea to run side-by-side images like this and were you ever concerned that maybe it wasn't possible?

Justin> Cutting the footage side-by-side was actually the very first version of the idea. From there, we explored intercutting clips, or even overlaying specific images to fit. But after seeing Jon’s first pass at an edit, we realised quickly that the side-by-side was actually the clearest interpretation of the idea. 

Jon> I expected it to take much more time. Turns out you don’t have to dig very deep to find a plethora of police brutality from any era in American history. 

LBB> What was that research process like? How did you source and trawl through all of that content? And then how did you go about fitting it to correlate with footage of today?

Jon> I dug all around the internet looking for the older clips first since every time I looked at my phone there was something horrible being captured out in the world that day. I really familiarised myself with footage from the past because naturally there’s just a smaller quantity of that footage available. From there I brought this idea to a couple friends, and they joined as researchers. We compiled a massive folder of modern day videos from all over the place. Going through everything was painful. I watched hours of police brutality videos, but I think it’s important that everyone does that. We can’t turn the other way just because we’re uncomfortable.  

LBB> The edit must have been a meticulous process. Can you tell us about it?

Justin> First and foremost, shout out to our friend, and incredible editor, Stephania Dulowski. She really brought this film to the next level. When we brought her in, we had a solid concept, multiple end lines and CTAs, and a rough cut with our juxtaposed footage that Jon pieced together. And even before having a conversation, Stephania sent us a list of notes that she thought could help tighten and punch up the message. All things that we agreed with, and loved. 

We moved clips around. Intercut between images and footage. We slowed things down, and rushed things up. We added title cards, then cut title cards. And stripped away colour, just to bring it back at the end. We tried out a lot. And really glad we did. Also, shout out to Stephania for always being down to try things. Even if it is the ninth hour on a Sunday, after working all weekend.

Jon> Super meticulous. I think finding and organising the clips was the hardest part and trying to remember everything as I started to edit a rough cut. After we did a couple cuts we felt comfortable bringing it to our friend / editor Stephania. We’ve worked with her in the past and she had just done an incredible short film in response to Covid. She’s amazing so bringing her on board was a no-brainer. And after sending her the rough cut, she immediately hit us back with builds that improved the fim. Bringing her on also allowed us to be much more objective and we really experimented with her. For example, I think photography in film can sometimes kill the momentum, but she made it work effortlessly. 

LBB> Can you tell me about the song choice? What is it and why did you choose it?

Jon> The song is ‘Black Man In A White World’ by Michael Kiwanuka. I’m a fan of his music, and the music video for that song, directed by Hiro Murai, is remarkable. The song was perfect for the idea we were trying to illustrate. Obviously the title and chorus encapsulates our idea, but there are a lot of other elements that make it great. The clapping and chanting throughout really mirrors what Justin and I have been doing when we protest. Another lyrical moment, “I feel like I’ve been here before, I feel that knocking on my door” was a perfect reflection of what we were trying to say conceptually. 

Justin> I woke up one morning, and at the end of a very long text message idea write up was a link to ‘Black Man In A White World’ by Michael Kiwanuka. Before reading anything he wrote, I listened to the song, and already knew I was on board with whatever he had just sent.

LBB> How do you see the power of filmmaking when it comes to tackling social issues?

Justin> The reason we released this film on Instagram is because people started using social media to share clips from rallies, protest messages, police brutality clips, news updates, Black Lives Matter murals, anything and everything related to the movement. We understood the power filmmaking had in this space because we were watching, and sharing a lot of the same clips you see in our final video now. And we knew that juxtaposing the past with the present would be something powerful that people would be able to share.

Jon> Well said Justin.

LBB> What were the trickiest components with this production and how did you overcome them?

Justin> It was definitely pulling clips and matching up frames. I’ll let Jon speak to that. 

Jon> I think my biggest challenge was having to review and organise hundreds of brutal videos and remember everything visually in my head. We made it a point to match similar camera angles and movements to reinforce the idea that not much has changed; there was a lot of nuance. I have a very messy Google doc that’s about 15 pages long full of video links. We probably used 5% of the total content pulled in the final film.

Disclaimer: We do not claim to own the rights to any images, footage, or music shown above. This was more of a curation project. We just wanted to make something that was educational for everyone. What you see here is just a tiny sliver of racial injustice. Thank you to all the artists documenting, making music, and giving this movement a voice


Music / Sound
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Categories: Short Films and Music Videos, Short films

LBB Editorial, Mon, 22 Jun 2020 15:01:00 GMT