“I think a lot of people tend to not notice or care about problems in society, until it affects their own community,” Brad Barber, director of the film “Peace Officer” told Hamptons.com. “It is harder to empathize sometimes when you look at a community that is different than yours, but when you see yourself in the story, it’s going to force a lot of people to confront it.”
“Peace Officer,” which Barber co-directed with Scott Christopherson, takes place in Utah, and focuses on William “Dub” Lawrence, a retired Sheriff that established his town’s first SWAT team. 30 years later, Dubs witnessed this SWAT team kill his son-in-law. The documentary immerses the audience in Dub’s story, as he is obsessed with going into every detail of the case, as well as the stories of other families from the area who lost a loved one due to this sort of police activity.
“It was a really difficult film to make, to see people experience this kind of stuff,” Christopherson shared. Both he and Barber believe in the empathetic power of documentaries. “We don’t approach it as a cold objective outsider,” Barber added.
The project, which was both directors debut documentary, began after Dub approached Christopherson about teaching him to edit video footage. Once the director agreed, Dub then brought Chritopherson to his home, where he kept all of the evidence from his son-in-law’s case. “I thought ‘this is really compelling,'” the director said about seeing everything that Dub had kept. Not only did Dub have countless video footage, but he also had a lot of evidence that he had collected himself, including walls full of photos.
When Christopherson met Dub, he was already working on a different film with Barber. The directors discussed Dub and his story, went through what was at stake with making a film like “Peace Officer,” and in the end, decided to go for it. “I thought that there was definitely at least a strong short film here, but then it just kind of grew and grew,” Christopheron said.
They began filming in the summer of 2012, and finished editing by January of 2015. “Peace Officer” was shown at South by South West Film Festival in March of 2015, where it received two awards. Since then, the film has received awards from other festivals, like Montclair Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
The duo began to film “Peace Officer” before police brutality became a subject that was hotly contested in the news and on social media. The directors felt like this is a topic that needed to be addressed, even before the incident in Ferguson, Missouri brought it onto the front pages of newspapers nationwide. “We felt like there was a real need there to talk about it after we met Dub, and got drawn into his story,” Barber said. “It does speak to this climate about looking critically on how the role of police in communities has changed.”
The pair say that their subject absolutely embodies the ‘peace officer.’ “He really believes that a law enforcement person should be a peace officer, somebody who lives in the community, knows the people he is serving, and is more of somebody who serves their community, rather than somebody who enforces law,” Christopherson said. “Somebody who really brings peace, that people can trust.” Barber added that a hope of his is that through this film, people can see the way that things have gone wrong, while also giving hope for future reform.
“Peace Officer” will be the final Hampton International Film Festival Summer Documentary Series screening of the season. Alec Baldwin will host the viewing, which will take place on Friday, August 28th at Guild Hall.
Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information about the film Peace Officer, visit www.peaceofficerfilm.com and for more information of the Hampton international Film Festival and to purchase tickets, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.