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'Charm City' documents years of violence in Baltimore

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 18:58:18-04

One film offers a rare look at a divisive issue: seeing violence from all perspectives. Meet 'Charm City' the documentary.

"We were really just wondering what was happening in the days before and the day after just to the people every day on the street," producer and director Marilyn Ness said.

Ness is an award-winning filmmaker who set out to find a city trying to move forward from violence. When she and her crew picked Baltimore and started filming in 2015, she had no idea they would document the city during three years of unparalleled violence. 

"We were on the ground filming as the unrest was unfolding and so we watched the city really go through a very painful time," Ness said. 

'Charm City' is a portrait of police, citizens and government officials on the frontline. 

"What it meant to govern in a city that was faced with violence, to live in a city where you feel excessively policed and to be a police officer in that city and so we just road along with everybody," Ness said. 

They started to explore what was broken between police and citizens. 

"When there is a lack of trust between police and citizens, everyone becomes less safe, because if you can’t call the police or you won’t call the police, then street justice prevails," Ness said. 

But she says the film lays out a lot of hope too. 

"With the people who are standing on the ground and refusing to leave that place and trying to commit to better ways forward for everyone," Ness said. "For us, when we met the people on the ground, we realized the kind of heart that was in Baltimore and though it’s a city that’s really struggling at times, there’s a lot of heart and there's a lot to be hopeful for."

After observing the city for three years, the film is taking center stage at the 20th annual Maryland Film Festival. 

"I felt as a citizen of Baltimore, the story of Baltimore was untold in the wake of Freddie grays death," founding director of the festival, Jed Dietz, said. "For me, it was revelatory to see people who are in different neighborhoods who are dealing with police all the time, with the police work which is really serious work."

"It feels like a homecoming," Ness said. "My hope had always been that we could bring it back to Baltimore and sort of launch an impact and engagement campaign here and we are excited to say that the police department is going to use it in training police officers."

She hopes she created a document of history that will shape the future of Baltimore. 

"I think the police understand that they are sometimes put at an impossible task and I think that the film tries to show the impossibilities at both times. If we leave people in a system that’s broken, it’s really hard to find a way forward," Ness said. 

The festival features 130 films through Sunday at 6 venues. 'Charm City' is being shown at MICA Brown at 4:30 Friday, 7:00 Saturday and 1:45 Sunday.