‘Power’ 2024 Netflix Review: Yance Ford’s Documentary Is A Thorough Examination Of The American Police System 

Power, the new documentary centered on the police in the United States, comes from the stable of Netflix, but it is certainly not your regular “true crime” entertainment. The Yance Ford-directed documentary is not based on any particular event. Instead, it takes the route of being introspective about the whole police system. Ford, who’s an Emmy winner, has already proved his mettle in documentary filmmaking with the very personal Strong Island, where he investigated the murder of his own brother. Unlike Strong Island, Ford’s latest work is based on a general topic and an exploration of it. Let’s take a closer look.

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What is the documentary about? 

The word “police” implies power, and Ford’s documentary goes deep into finding out the origin of it. Ford starts from the very beginning, which was the creation of the first ever police force in America in 1883 in Boston. The question of police brutality is raised, as it was always inevitable. With that, the topic of racism arises. Through many experts, lots of archival footage, and a police officer from Minneapolis, Charlie Adams, Power gets to the bottom of the sensitive issue of black people being subjected to harassment and worse by the police. The documentary introduces us to the term “slave patrol,” which is a system that ensured the slave fell in line. With that being one of the origins of the police system, it is quite evident that the colored people in America were doomed from the very beginning. Add to that the absolutely hollow superiority complex that white people have. For centuries, imagining black people as inferior and less intelligent beings compared to them had been normalized in America, and the police system only indulged that further. 

It’s astonishing how an inhuman thing like “black code” was invented by human beings and continued to exist for years. Yes, this is the rule that didn’t allow black people to get any jobs outside of manual labor like farming and cleaning. This also allowed any white citizen to actually arrest black people for any reason. With something like that being part of American history, it’s understandable how a lot of the citizens still can’t leave that racist mentality behind. The documentary continues to establish the relationship between politics and racism influencing policing and how people in America kept getting affected by it. Power doesn’t shy away from labeling early nineteenth-century police forces as criminal organizations due to their political tie-ups. There’s some more name drops, like August Vollmer, who’s considered the pioneer of modern-day American policing, as well as Stokley Carmichael, one of the most famous American activists who advocated for black power.

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Final Thoughts 

I would say the biggest plus point of Power is having someone like Charlie Adams as a storyteller. While the experts theorize the black problem (I hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty of labeling it as such) of American policing, it is Adams who provides you with the proper examples, which helps you develop a perspective. It must have been a calculated choice by Ford to follow an African-American police officer from Minneapolis, the same city where George Floyd was murdered by an American police officer. I’ve got to admit that the George Floyd incident was the one that made me genuinely aware of both the police brutality and the impact of racism in America, and I’m sure it’s the same for many people around the world. This documentary acts as a quiet reminder of that by letting us know that before it lets Adams take us on his journey of witnessing and experiencing racism throughout his life. I really liked how, instead of pointing fingers at anyone, Adams just simply narrates what he’s been through, and it’s you, the audience, who have to decide what to make of it all. 

One very significant thing about most of Adams’ stories is that the violence coming from the black community is actually being instigated by the police force, namely the white police. Like the story he told about his childhood, of a group of black neighbors burning down a local shop. His own uncle was part of the gang that committed the act. But it came from a boiling point of rage, thanks to a white police officer unnecessarily torturing a local black man. Speaking of violence, Power also throws light on both white and black churches being destroyed—an utterly stupid and pointless thing to do, all fueled by racism and the reaction of it. 

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As this is a documentary that doesn’t follow a particular story per se, Ford keeps showing you real videos of black people getting harassed by police officers—for no valid reason. Looking at these is hard, as it infuriates you and makes you want to question the whole point of the system. But make no mistake, Ford’s documentary is not a call for a protest. It is not exactly asking you to barge into your nearest police precinct and cause havoc. Because that’s not exactly going to solve anything. Instead, what Power truly wants you to do is dig a little deeper and look into the root cause of the whole problem. It is both an examination and an inspection, and Ford has aced both. 

Among all the black protest footage you see in Power, the standout one has to be a man screaming and telling you the ugliest possible truth: as a tax-paying citizen, you are paying the state for the privilege of having them torture you. Since police is a government-funded organization, this statement has a lot of relevance, especially in a country like America, which is still plagued by racial subjugation. That might sound like an exaggeration to you, but maybe that’s the whole point of a documentary like Power. It is definitely not the kind of content to chill with, even though it is on Netflix.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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