Also Tonight: ‘Baltimore Rising’

baltimore-risingTV news coverage of the uprisings that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray were, like the earlier death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and others that would follow, surprisingly badly done. Reporters tried to get in on the action but hardly talked to people in the streets. They convened panels in their studios but generally declined to ask people on the ground their feelings.

When Kwame Rose admonished the goofily grinning Geraldo Rivera in his Fox News coverage for not reporting on the conditions that caused the uprising, but were only there to see the carnage, the young man suddenly became a movement spokesman.

Even younger was the articulate teenager Makayla Gilliam Price, hoping to find meaning and an organization to build something beyond protests, even as she considered putting off college to do so.

And desperate to seek answers and solutions was former gang member Genard “Shadow” Barr.

The very vitality of each of their struggles is what brings a shard of hope to the aftermath of the burning city in “Baltimore Rising” (HBO, 8 p.m.), the documentary by Sonja Sohn and Mark Levin that covers the event in a manner nobody has quite done before.

In addition to the activists, the film follows the concerns of a new police chief, which seem sincere, and the few officers who have succeeded in creating a shard of trust with the community.

There is also a look at the intransigent power structure, reluctant to add community input to investigations of police misconduct — and those in the community who are skeptical even of a Department of Justice report that basically confirms what they’ve been saying along.

That the film is directed by Sohn is a kind of HBO irony. Her original association with the network was her portrayal of Det. Kima Griggs on “The Wire.” That experience allowed her to consider the role of police as well as an understand the city where it was set.

The access the cameras got is considerable, and go beyond street confrontations to a number of meetings of activists on where to go next. It provides a portrait of people who are pushed from their everyday lives to become activists when conditions around them become intolerable.

That those charged connection with the death of Gray have all been acquitted one by one — with the last one coming just this month — brings some doubt the things will ever change. But the spark inside the people, seen so clearly in “Baltimore Rising” provides the glimmer of needed hope.


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