No Knock No Charge? The Amir Locke Story
By: Adam Freed
Prior to screening director Andrew Tyler’s emotional tidal wave of a documentary No Knock No Charge? The Amir Locke Story, Pastor Darius Brooks encouraged a pensive audience to remember that tears are evidence of life, and are therefore worthy of embrace. Pastor Brooks’ words could not have paved a more gracious path to witnessing what may be the most gut wrenching and moving documentary film in years. No Knock No Charge?The Amir Locke Story is a social sword, equally keen on two sides, which speaks to its dual storytelling purpose. First is the catastrophic and violent tale of a family losing their 22 year old son at the hands of the Minneapolis police department. The second story is a meaningful reminder of the phoenix of change that can rise from the ashes of grief.
In 1955 Emmett Till, a 14 year old child was murdered for having allegedly insulted a white woman. Till was beaten unconscious before being shot in the head and deposited in a river. His mother Mamie Till-Mobley made the unthinkable decision to hold Till’s funeral services with an open casket as to allow mourners to witness the savage result of a society governed by two separate sets of laws. Andrew Tyler, who is also Amir Locke’s uncle, makes, with all hyperbole aside, a filmmaking decision that is the 21st century equivalent to that of Till’s mother nearly 70 years ago. Tyler embraces the agony he inevitably reopens for his family, and the nightmare inducing imagery on countless others by allowing audiences to witness Amir Locke’s shooting in grueling detail. Using the footage collected from 56 separate police body cameras, Mr. Tyler’s harrowing film follows the Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team from their voyage up the apartment complex’s elevator, through the breach of the apartment where Amir Locke was living, eventually capturing the grotesquerie of Locke’s killing and finally concluding with Locke’s lifeless body being prepared for surgery in the hospital’s trauma ward. There are no words that can express the hopelessness in witnessing a young life extinguished, which makes No Knock No Charge? The Amir Locke Story, a film that cannot be forgotten, and for age appropriate audiences, may finally be the social justice vehicle to promote meaningful change.
What begins as a story about a tragic loss of life, tactfully transitions into a quest to abolish “no knock” warrants in Locke’s home state of Minnesota. In an age overly familiar with political banter, the haunting images of The Amir Locke Story leave little room for debate. As the film presents with aplomb, Amir Locke, who had no criminal record, was not named on the “no knock” warrant being executed by the police on the night he was killed. Where Tyler’s film broadens in scope is the inclusion of a litany of interviews that aim to turn pain into progress. Informational and impassioned dialogue with Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and American academic Dr. Michael Eric Dyson provides the film with a gravity that advances the conversation beyond family trauma. The most powerful interviews though are those provided by Amir Locke’s parents Karen Wells and Andre Locke. Locke’s parents have made it their life's work to abolish “no knock” warrants, cementing the mission of the film’s forward thinking purpose.
Dr. King famously professed that his vision of America was one in which his children would be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. Andrew Tyler, through the brutal reality of his art acknowledges the horrors of today, with hope of capturing King’s vision of a brighter tomorrow. As the house lights rise on a morose audience, both burdened and heartened by Andrew Tyler’s No Knock No Charge? The Amir Locke Story the words of Pastor Brooks prove those of a prophet. Embracing the sea swell of tears shed for Amir Locke and allowing them to one day grow into a tidal wave of social change is the only positive path forward.
TARGET SCORE - N/A Considering the catastrophic subject matter of this film, Movie Archer considers it in poor taste to assign a numeric value. That being said, this is a film that needs to be seen.