In 1992, filmmaker Yance Ford’s brother William was shot and killed by a 19-year-old white mechanic after a common complaint about a car repair spiraled violently out of control. The mechanic claimed he fired in self-defense, and though William was unarmed, he quickly became the prime suspect in his own death. When an all-white grand jury set the shooter free, Yance’s family retreated into a silent fury. Twenty years later, Strong Island invents a startling cinematic language to penetrate this devastating collision of paralysis, grief, fear, racism, and injustice.
As much as it is an outward-facing investigation of William’s case, this film is a radically intimate, lovingly layered inquiry into the emotional valences and internal geometries of the Ford family and their loss. Exacting aesthetic choices transport us directly into Yance and his mother’s subjective experience, acknowledging the painful reality that some things will always be elusive and unknowable. Strong Island dismantles and reimagines the wreckage left in the wake of William’s murder, bringing us as close as art can come to the blistering truth.