African/Af. Amer, Family Issues, Social Issues
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In 1999, nine-year-old Emmanuel Sanford-Durant and his family began to use a video camera to record their daily lives in one of America’s most dangerous neighborhoods—just 17 blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. They’ve been filming ever since.
Made in collaboration with director Davy Rothbart (a This American Life regular), this intensely personal documentary gives new meaning to the term “raw footage.” Spanning two decades, it captures the trials, tribulations, small victories, and horrific tragedies of the close-knit clan—including Emmanuel, a promising student who dreams of being a firefighter; his sister Denice, an aspiring cop, and drug-dealing brother Smurf; and their mother Cheryl, who must wrestle with her own demons even as she struggles to ensure her children and grandchildren have a future. Of course, one needn’t zoom out from their portrait very far to see the big picture: This family’s saga illuminates the ongoing crisis of the forgotten underclass in cities and towns across America.