Review: Where Should We Go (2021)

Short Films Competition

Courtesy of SIFF

Albina was founded when the railroad came to Portland, Oregon in 1870s. By the end of the 19th century, it was merged with East Portland and Portland into one city. Nowadays, it is one of Portland districts, situated on the Northeast side. Its population historically was, and still is predominantly African-American. Albina, its history and long-running social issues are the subject of the Albina Vision Series produced by Dru Holley. One of the instalments, Where Should We Go, directed by Che O’Grady, has just premiered at Seattle International Film Festival.

Where Should We Go is a short documentary that packs its serious and interconnected subjects of Black History, institutional racism, ghettoisation and unequal opportunities, economic and otherwise, into a compact 11-minute format and in TV-friendly style with interviews, archival footage and excerpts from the old news material. Its primary goal is to raise the awareness of the historical injustice the local people were, and still are, subjected to, and it succeeds in its mission.

The documentary opens with a news clipping from the 70s about a black family being forced to move out from a white suburban neighbourhood due to the harassment it was subjected to by their neighbours. It is not a problem that is characteristic just for Portland, but for many towns in the US in that particular period of time: black families coming to the neighbourhood means the prices of property are about to go down, the services are about to be defunded and so on. Portland and many other cities have devised discriminative residential zones, ruling which “kind” of people has to live where, and enforcing something called residential segregation.

That particular case is just a pretext, or more likely illustration for the film’s principal topic: the economic component of the structural racism. Three of the interviewees, two of whom come from the academic circles, try to go in depth with the study of the long-standing structural racism and discrimination by the economic means due to unjust rules. Professor Cleo Davis states not just the example of what his grandparents were subjected to when they bought the property (they were obliged to demolish the residential building on it from their own pocket), but also offers the theory that black people were brought from Africa all over the world just to be exploited. Dr Karen Gibson talks about residential segregation and concentration of certain population in a predestined zone, creating a ghetto-like conditions, while the former Black Panthers member Kent Ford, coming from the ranks of civil activism, offers his side of the story about the efforts to improve the community not being welcomed by the city and the federal authorities.

Where Should We Go is an all-around competent piece of documentary filmmaking. Its topics and the connections between them are presented in a clear fashion and its execution is proper. The only trouble is that, in its present format, it feels more like a sketch for a mid-length film. Such interesting topics and angles actually needed more screen time to develop and make an impact they deserve.

Runtime: 11’ 22’’
Country: USA
Language: English
Directed by: Che O’Grady
Written by: Che O’Grady
With: Cleo Davis, Dr Karen Gibson, Kent Ford
Cinematography by: Misty Eddy
Editing by: Dee Juliano Scott
Music by: Adrian Anaya
Sound by: Callie Day
Colourist: Tiki Moon
Produced by: Dru Holley
Production company: Blackbald Films