In 2014, the death of an African American teenager sparked a cultural uprising. This past October, Amazon attempted to block the release of Shelby Steele’s documentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” which seeks to retell this story and show the power of media narratives.
The Dow Journalism Program will be screening Steele’s documentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” this Friday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. The movie will be shown in the Hames Room of the Fine Arts Building.
The film explores the controversy and media reaction surrounding the police shooting of black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which birthed the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The documentary explores the ideas surrounding systemic racism in America and the origins of the BLM movement. African American conservative scholar Shelby Steele wrote and narrated the documentary, while his son Eli Steele directed the film. Their aim was to contribute to today’s dialogue as race relations continue to consume the American conversation, especially after the death of George Floyd this past summer.
The film was finally released on Amazon.com on Oct. 16, 2020, after Amazon said they would not release the film and that they would not reconsider their decision on its ban. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the reason for Amazon’s course of action was that the film “doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations.”
Amazon decided to release the film after public outcry.
After hearing about the controversy swarming around the film’s release, the directors of the Dow Journalism Program felt it was important for students to have an opportunity to view the movie.
“As soon as I heard that Amazon.com had banned this documentary, I wanted to show it on campus. We began to make plans right away,” Director of the Dow Journalism Program John J. Miller said. “Thankfully, Amazon.com reversed its lousy decision, but we’re still going to show the film. Shelby Steele is one of America’s great public intellectuals and I’m eager to hear what he says in this documentary.”
Nathan Estruth, father of Hillsdale College senior Jolene Estruth, said he’s watched the documentary and highly recommends students to watch it.
“How could you not watch it, after all the controversy?” Estruth said. “The film goes through the narrative of ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,’ versus the facts on the ground, and the causal government policies that led to those events.”