June 24, 2021
Ken Fero’s grim update to his fearless 2001 documentary Injustice, about police brutality against black men, is a shocking case of more of the same
Ultraviolence review – still no justice in follow-up doc on deaths in UK police custody
Twenty years in the making, Ken Fero’s Ultraviolence is the follow-up to Injustice from 2001, a documentary that is the most important British nonfiction film of my professional lifetime: a radical, passionate work about the ongoing scandal and tragedy of deaths in UK police custody, largely of black men. That film challenged the consensus and earned Fero and his co-director Tariq Mehmood nothing but obstruction from the authorities. The police federation threatened him with writs and the terrestrial broadcasters nervously shied away.
Nowadays, it is precisely these establishment figures who have learned to make blandly respectful noises at the mention of Black Lives Matter and George Floyd. But for decades, Fero has been telling them that it’s been happening right here, in the UK, under their noses. Between 1969 and 1999, a thousand people died in police custody without prosecution, and the situation has carried on in the 21st century. Injustice talked about the heartwrenching cases of Paul Coker, Christopher Alder and many more: black men whose initial arrest on some minor matter of disorder spiralled into ugly violence, brutal subjection techniques, death and cover-up within the walls of the police station. Fero has here given us an update: grimly, it is a case of more of the same: more deaths, more protests, more waffle from the Independent Office for Police Conduct, more press conferences, more stonewalling that leads the angry grieving families up endless flights of the Escher staircase.
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