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‘The Body Politic’ spreads hope

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Courtesy: “The Body Politic” Facebook

This review analyzes “The Body Politic”, a 2023 documentary about the young mayor of Baltimore, Brandon M. Scott, fighting against his city’s high gun violence rate. The director is Gabriel Francis Paz Goodenough, a resident of Baltimore and an experienced worker in the film industry. The film, which received the Audience Choice Award at the Omaha Film Festival in March, clearly illustrates how frustratingly slow social changes are due to how unpredictable people can be. The mayor and the people of Baltimore tried over and over again to lower gun violence statistics, but it did not happen overnight. 

The story begins with Brandon Scott campaigning to become mayor. He succeeds because of the young voters who had just registered to vote. At first, the mayor struggled to gain enough resources to make Safe Streets, a gun violence prevention program, successful at its job. The city of Baltimore has a population of over 550,000, yet the Safe Streets program in Baltimore only had enough people for small groups to roam the streets. Throughout the documentary, Mayor Scott struggles with the number of murders exceeding his goal and meeting up with the governor of Maryland for assistance from the state. By the end of the film, the city of Baltimore was making progress in reducing crime. 

The cinematography made me feel as though I was actually there to witness the story; the camera was shaky at times due to being handheld, there was no music in scenes in which the mayor is grieving and the film does not appear to make people act for a dramatic experience. The people presented usually acted as though the camera was not there, which helped immerse me in the viewing experience. 

The film did an excellent job at demonstrating Mayor Scott’s perspective on the issue of police work and gun violence without appearing too far left. Politics had an effect on the mayor’s work, of course, but he was clearly not motivated by votes. Instead of going the popular route, which is to mass arrest suspected drug dealers and gang members, Mayor Scott chose to persist in utilizing the Group Violence Reduction Strategy because he grew up in Baltimore. He was raised in a violent part of the city, and he witnessed his first shooting as a 7-year-old, so he knows the community well enough to know incarceration does not solve the problem. 

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Director Goodenough, who also had a hand in cinematography, knew when to add music and when to exclude it. This feels significant to me because it makes it easier to hear speaking voices and it gives a moment of silence for those who passed away. Mayor Scott’s answers in an interview are scattered across the film, making the camera his voice to spread the message of hope, love and persistence from Baltimore. 

The city of Baltimore is not the only place in which the Group Violence Reduction Strategy is being utilized and improved. YouTurn Omaha is a nonprofit organization whose primary goal is to reduce the crime rate in North Omaha, the part of the city most affected by gun violence.

The film is showing in festivals around the world and should be available on streaming soon. In an email interview, director Goodenough explained that he and his film crew contacted YouTurn Omaha and other similar organizations about “The Body Politic”: “In every city that our film goes to, we try to find and invite folks who are involved in violence reduction and a public health approach to gun violence. I reached out to YouTurn on a phone call, and we were lucky enough to have them accept our offer to come to the screening.” 

Overall, “The Body Politic” is worth watching because, personally, Mayor Scott makes me want to talk to my neighbors and work harder on my goals. Perhaps seeing success in difficult situations encourages people to put in more effort into doing what they feel is right.

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About the Contributor
Leia Baxter
Leia Baxter, Staff Reporter
My name is Leia. This is my first year on staff. I am interested in opinions and reasoning. My hobbies are reading, playing video games, and relaxing. I hope a lack of communication will not prevent me from potentially helping others.
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