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Afrikana Independent Film Festival Showcases “Why This Moment”

A Black man carries an American flag over his shoulder during a night of protests, with text showing the documentary name "Why The Moment" floating over the image
“Why This Moment” will be screened on Thursday, September 16 at the Afrikana Independent Film Festival.

More than a year ago, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer stirred protests across the country, including in Richmond, Virginia. Domico Phillips was on the ground with local protesters from the very beginning, capturing photos and videos. 

“When that happened with George Floyd, everybody united together and took matters into their own hands,” said Phillips as he documented everything from protests, arrests and fires, to cookouts, dance performances and community gardens. “Coming out here every day and every night, you don’t know what to expect.”

A Black man is filming people enjoy the grassy area around the Lee Monument.
Filmmaker Domico Phillips captures an afternoon of activity as Richmonders enjoy the grassy area around the Lee monument. Protestors unofficially renamed the area “Marcus-David Peters Circle” in memory of a 24-year-old Black man shot and killed by a Richmond police officer in 2018. (Photo provided by VPM)

Throughout the protests, there was a heavy police and military presence along with a spectrum of violence, as well as apologies from city and state officials, peaceful demonstrations, and ultimately the removal of nearly every Confederate statue in Richmond. Many monuments were removed by city officials and property owners, though some were pulled down by protesters. The final Confederate statue on Monument Ave. — Robert E. Lee — was removed Wednesday, September 8, more than a year after the protests began, and nearly 9 months after the state fenced off the area.

Filmmakers Phillips and Metta Bastet captured these history-making events in Richmond as people expressed their frustrations over repeated acts of police violence in the documentary, “Why This Moment.” The film shares the emotions and stories surrounding the protests from the perspective of local activists.

“The murder of George Floyd was the last straw, you know, for our nation and beyond,” said Princess Blanding, an independent gubernatorial candidate whose brother, Marcus-David Peters, was killed by Richmond police in 2018 during a mental health crisis.

Activists informally renamed the median the “Beautiful Marcus-David Peters Circle” in honor of his memory, and it became a gathering spot for racial justice activists and others.  The film features Blanding and spotlights her brother as well as Richmond’s own reckoning with police reform.

Police officers in riot gear watch during a night of protests as a city bus burns and people run from the fire and trash is covering the ground.
Police officers watch as a Greater Richmond Transit Company bus burns down and protestors retreat from the fire. (Photo provided by VPM)

“Why this moment?” asked Bastet, lead film producer and director, coining the title for the documentary. After decades of seeing Confederate statues and monuments across the city, Bestat says she was stunned when momentum from the protests led to their removal.

“Why This Moment” will be screened on Thursday, September 16th at Maymont as part of the Afrikana Independent Film Festival

The Afrikana Independent Film Festival showcases the cinematic works of people of color from around the world, with a special focus on the global Black narrative to create a space that celebrates, elevates, and further validates Black stories, Black voices, and Black lives. Find more information or purchase tickets for the film festival.

Stay up to date with the Afrikana Independent Film Festival on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

To learn more about VPM’s documentaries, visit pbs.org/show/vpm-documentaries/