SXSW World Premiere March 13 – Click to enlarge

On April 30, 2014, a white police officer, Christopher Manney, shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, at Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. No charges were brought, but Manney was fired from the force. As a result of the shooting and subsequent protests, Milwaukee police officers were equipped with body cameras.

Hamilton, who was 31 years old at the time of his death, had a history of mental illness. Hamilton’s family stated that he had been treated for schizophrenia but was not violent.

This Milwaukee tragedy is at the center of a new documentary set to make its premiere at the upcoming SXSW Film Festival this month, screening first at the ALAMO RITZ 1 on March 13, at 4:30pm, with subsequent screenings on March 14 & 16 (click here for schedule info).

In production for roughly 3 years, the film is titled “The Blood Is at the Doorstep,” and focuses on the Hamilton family and how the events of April 30th, 2014 changed their lives forever; moments that occupied the city’s attention for much of 2014, from protests to marches, to vigils and court decisions – all captured through the lens of documentary filmmaker, Erik Ljung.

In addition to focusing on the Hamilton family, the film also shares views from Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and District Attorney John Chisholm.

“It’s huge for the entire Milwaukee film society,” director Ljung said in a previous statement about “The Blood is at the Doorstep” premiering at one of the country’s most prominent film festivals, SXSW. “We tried to give all different perspectives of the major players within this case.”

THE HAMILTON FAMILY L to R: Dameion Perkins, Maria Hamilton, Nathaniel Hamilton Sr., Nate Hamilton Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Magazine
THE HAMILTON FAMILY. L to R: Dameion Perkins, Maria Hamilton, Nathaniel Hamilton Sr., Nate Hamilton | SXSW

The filmmaker also hopes that the documentary reaches a wide audience and makes a significant impression on those who see it.

Manney shot Hamilton 14 times, killing him. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel summarized the events as follows: “Before the encounter, a pair of officers responding to a call that Hamilton was asleep in the park checked on him twice and found he was doing nothing wrong. When Manney arrived, he was not aware that other officers had preceded him. As Manney began to pat down Hamilton, Hamilton fought him, and a confrontation ensued. Manney tried to use his baton to subdue Hamilton, but Hamilton got control of it and swung at Manney, hitting him on the side of the neck, according to Milwaukee police internal affairs. No additional weapons were found on Hamilton’s person.”

Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Manney after the shooting. In March 2015, a three-member panel of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission unanimously upheld the firing, sustaining and confirming the two conclusions of an internal investigation, which determined that: Manney had conducted a frisking process without a reasonable suspicion, and Manney did follow departmental “Defense and Arrest Tactics.”

Hamilton’s death and the lack of any true accountability or retribution were protested, led by the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the aftermath of Hamilton’s death, 8 Milwaukee alderman, a majority of the Milwaukee Common Council, called in December 2014 for equipping all city police officers with body cameras on an expedited basis. The Fire and Police Commission approved the policy by a 4–1 vote. However, following a similar police shooting of a Milwaukee black man in 2016, the Milwaukee Police Department was criticized for not submitting a review of its new patterns and practices.

“The Blood Is at the Doorstep” will screen as part of the Documentary Feature Competition at the SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10th through the 18th.

Shadow and Act has been granted exclusive first looks at the film’s official poster (above) and trailer (below):