‘The Wire’ star makes documentary ‘Baltimore Rising’
New York — Sonja Sohn has gone from being in front of the camera to behind it. The actress, who played a Baltimore detective on “The Wire,” has become a documentary filmmaker and her debut offering is a powerful look at her beloved adopted city.
“Baltimore Rising,” which aired Monday on HBO, examines a fearful community in the wake of riots after the death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody in 2015. Sohn and her team accumulated some 600 hours of footage over a year to make the 90-minute film.
Sohn leveraged good will created from “The Wire,” as well as her own help in the community to gain amazing access to police and social activists. Her cameras capture intimate moments at dinner tables, on football fields and electric moments before important decisions. The Associated Press asked about her approach and what lessons there are from Baltimore.
Associated Press: Was it hard putting aside personal beliefs to listen to all sides?
Sohn: Certainly I had opinions about the case, about the way it was handled, about police, law enforcement, even about the activists — the younger ones, the older ones, the conversations that were going on in the street. I had plenty of opinions. But, of course, the one thing that you know you have to at least strive for is too keep all those opinions contained in this little space and try to be as neutral as possible.
AP: The film has no bad guys, just people out there trying to keep the city from violence.
Sohn: No matter what you can say about our cast, somewhere inside every single cast member, they care about the city. You might not agree with their stances, their perspectives and how they show that care and that love, but they all care.
AP: The legal cases against the Gray officers might have led to violence. Why didn’t it?
Sohn: I knew what a juggernaut that incident was and the force and the energy that was released through the incident that then propelled everyone’s work even further. It was like putting a rocket booster on folks’ motivation. The city was activated. I could feel it. Most people were of one accord, which is, ‘No matter what happens with these cases, we’re not going to destroy our city.’
AP: Can changes in police training have anything to do with a solution?
Sohn: The government sees the police department as an extension of the military. We see the police department as an extension of the community. Therein lies the problem right there. They serve at the behest of the community. And, by the way, so does the military.
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