The Killing of America (1981)

The Killing of America
Director: Sheldon Renan, Leonard Schrader
Writer: Chieko Schrader, Leonard Schrader
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2016
[Review by cornholio.]

A documentary on violence in the United States of America, edited together from footage of actual (violent) crimes, shedding light on gun violence, racial violence, serial killers and the cults that surround them.

The resurfacing of The Killing of America does come at a rather poignant point in time. It feels like many parallels can be drawn between what we see on the screen in this documentary and what’s happening today. It’s interesting and depressing as hell to see how things really stay the same the more they change.

The Killing of America shows a lot of footage that really isn’t easy to stomach and I guess, you have to be in a certain kind of mood to subject yourself to an evening filled with the worst that humanity has to offer. Since it’s not that easy to sit through, the few minor lengths the film does have do make themselves felt rather strongly and the film generally feels much longer than it actually is.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. The film can be separated into two parts, with the first part mostly dealing with racial violence and police brutalit, and the second part, dealing with serial killers. The transition from “general serial killers” to “sexualized violence serial killers” is not entirely smooth, but otherwise it all paints a rather fitting and damning picture. Both parts are equally transfixing and filled with information (I didn’t know that two people were shot during Lennon’s vigil, I only ever knew about Lennon himself and somehow that was one of the things that surprised me most. I should have known that).

Although the film proves that many things that sometimes seem to be very modern phenomena have been going on for a long while, like police killing black people, there is one thing that struck me as obviously changed very much and that’s the speed with which things unfold. Nowadays, no policeman would wait three minutes to shoot an armed (or even unarmed) black person. And I very much doubt that they would let a hostage situation drag on for three days. But they used to, and at least sometimes it meant that lives could be saved.

It’s shocking that the speed with which violent solutions are sought seems to be the only thing that has changed in the past 35 years. That makes it easy to imagine a sequel to this documentary about what happened since 1980. Or even if you look at the last few years only, it could seamlessly continue the observations this documentary makes. Since nothing was learned, maybe this documentary should be made.

Summarizing: Worth seeing, but not easily taken.

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