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'Strong Island'

U.S. Documentary; 107 minutes.

A family tragedy, stemming from a case of injustice, is recounted in the most personal terms possible in "Strong Island," a powerful documentary from director Yance Ford.

Ford lays out photos from her family's albums to tell the story of the Ford family. William Ford and Barbara Dunmore met as kids in South Carolina, fell in love in high school, got married and moved to New York. They lived in a Brooklyn apartment, until the family grew — three children: William Jr., Yance and Lauren — and moved into a house in Central Islip, on Long Island.

On April 7, 1992, the Ford family's life was shattered when William Jr., confronting a mechanic at an auto shop, was shot and killed by the mechanic. He was 24 years old.

The second blow to the family came later, when they learned a grand jury refused to indict the mechanic for William Jr.'s death. The family never healed from that news, staying silent even among themselves about what happened.

Yance Ford tears down that wall of silence, in painfully honest interviews with her mother, her sister, and William's friends. Yance also reads from William's journals, and expresses her own feelings — like the sadness she feels that she never came out as gay while William was alive — directly to the camera.

"Strong Island" becomes a document of how the injustice of letting William's killer walk reflected racial prejudice on Long Island. but also a cathartic cry from the heart about how such injustice makes victims of the family and friends touched by it..

– Sean P. Means