Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film from Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Bing Liu and co-director Joshua Altman, All These Sons is a movie that is undeniably difficult to watch, but it also deals with very important issues. Eye-opening and thought-provoking, this film proves that the success of Minding the Gap was far from a fluke.
The movie follows two men who spend their lives changing the lives of young Black men in Chicago’s South and West sides in an effort to curb the effects of deadly gun violence. This story has exactly what it takes to make for a documentary that is both important and compelling, and Liu and Altman are able to capture what makes it so special.
Of course, the issue of gun violence is still one that is prevalent in America and needs to be discussed. There have been a lot of films that follow people trying to fix this issue, and some that have explored the human impact that gun violence has, but rarely is a movie able to address both so gracefully and effectively.
One of the best things about Liu and Altman’s approach is that they give equal focus to both the subjects of the film and the people they are helping. It is clear that the filmmakers care just as much about the people who are being affected by the issue as the people who are inciting change.
The empathetic lens through which Liu and Altman shoot the movie definitely helps in getting the point across. Part of what made Minding the Gap effective was that it made the audience feel as if they were living among that group of people, and while this isn’t quite as intimate as that, it still does a great job of making the viewer feel acquainted with the people in the film.
This is a movie that hits really hard and wants the viewer to know that these are real people whose lives are being destroyed by gun violence. We get to see more of these people’s lives than just their activism or victimhood, which makes it all the more powerful when we hear about how tragedy has stricken them.
The one thing that this film is missing compared to Minding the Gap is the sense of visual poetry. The cinematography is still solid, but there is a much lesser focus on aesthetics here. Perhaps it’s because this movie is dealing with subject matter that is much less nuanced, but the storytelling is far more straightforward here.
All These Sons is a great documentary, and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Minding the Gap, it’s expectedly powerful. Hopefully Bing Liu and Joshua Altman continue to make exceptional nonfiction cinema like this.
All These Sons is currently seeking distribution.