Whose Streets?

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Whose Streets? Movie Poster Image
Riveting docu on racial politics has violence, swearing.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sends a clear message that it's important to fight for civil and human rights. Values promoted include speaking out against injustice, finding courage in times of crisis, teamwork, having empathy for others, determination, and optimism even in life's darkest moments. Expresses a desire to engage young members of a community to help advance a cause.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The featured people, many of whom are women, are driven to fight for change. They exhibit bravery, loyalty, unyielding commitment to seeking equal treatment, and a basic instinct for self-preservation. They work both for themselves and for their children. Law enforcement and institutional organizations are portrayed as a unified, societal force. No time is spent on getting to them as individuals or as people who have a viable point-of-view. 


Rough treatment of protestors and activists. Batons, beatings, gunfire (including machine guns), tear gas, explosions, fires. Police wear gas masks, use shields, and wield powerful weapons. 


A couple's relationship intensifies as the film progresses. Kissing.


Constant angry swearing and profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "damn," "crap," the "N" word, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Whose Streets? is an often disturbing but historically relevant documentary that explores the aftermath of the August 9, 2014, shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, in Ferguson, Missouri. Co-directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis use actual footage of protests, rioting, and police response, so you can expect to see violent, upsetting encounters and military-style action (police in full battle gear, bearing machine guns and tear gas) against Missouri's African-American citizens. These incidents are all more affecting because they're real. Language is extremely strong throughout, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. One young mother is featured; her story includes a growing romantic relationship with a fellow female activist. Focusing on the African-American citizens' perspective, the film offers little from the point-of-view of law enforcement officials or the city's politicians. It does, however, show how intended peaceful civil protest can sometimes escalate into rioting, looting, and angry unrest. And its themes include the power of teamwork, empathy, and perseverance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byshane p. February 26, 2018

Civil Rights History is Happening Now

Unfortunately this film is rated R which will prevent some parents from letting their children watch it. I think all children should see this film and discuss... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

WHOSE STREETS? uses media coverage, citizen-shot footage, interviews, and in-depth personal stories to chronicle the events that took place after an unarmed African-American teen named Michael Brown was killed by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis mark the explosive encounters between police and activists, the militarization of the Ferguson police, and the growing anger and frustration of the African-American community toward what they perceive to be a biased law enforcement community. Told from the perspective of the leaders of and participants in Ferguson's protests -- specifically the Black Lives Matter movement -- the film doesn't ignore the fact that protests sometimes escalated to destruction, looting, and rioting. Viewers meet Brittany Ferrell, a luminous young mother; David Whitt, a committed member of Copwatch, activists who record evidence of police misconduct; and other passionate people who are saddened and angered by Brown's death. The national impact of the city's unrest is also part of the film's fabric.

Is it any good?

Compelling, disturbing, and at times inspirational, this film makes a strong case for peaceful activism by African-American citizens reeling from grief and futile attempts at institutional change. Brown's shooting is one of the key events that propelled the Black Lives Matter movement to prominence, and Whose Streets? clearly intends to document the movement's rise and significance by offering in-depth portrayals of some of those involved in Ferguson.

The directors do a masterful job of focusing their work, editing down what must have been an enormous amount of material. Their use of the film's featured characters is especially effective at eliciting a sympathetic response to what took place. Only a few brief shots of some of the faces of the young law enforcement officers -- who are quite obviously in far over their head -- reveal any of the ambivalence that those who were ordered to contain the protests were feeling. Though the film is divided into five sections, the divisions seem arbitrary; it works as a whole. A far cry from the national news media's take on the events -- which emphasized the rioting, fires, and civil unrest -- Whose Streets? is must-see viewing for mature audiences. It should promote thoughtful discussion and a deeper understanding of ongoing issues in a world still struggling with racial conflict.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss how the events shown in Whose Streets? compare to what you might have seen in media coverage at the time. Were you surprised by anything you saw? Why do you think media outlets might choose to cover things like riots, fires, and lootings over constructive efforts to change culture?

  • How does the kind of violence in this movie compare to what you might see in an action film? Which has more impact? Why?

  • How does the movie emphasize the importance of perseveranceempathy, and teamwork? Which characters do you consider role models, and why? Do people have to be "perfect" to be considered role models?

  • The filmmakers present almost entirely one side of the events as they took place. What, if any, attempts were made to show the impact of the situation on the police and other law enforcement officials? Do you think the directors should have used a more even-handed approach? Why or why not? Are documentaries obliged to be objective?

  • Were you familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement before you saw this movie? How did this film affect your opinion about both the events in Ferguson and Black Lives Matter as a social phenomenon?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love documentaries

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate