TCA: PBS Film ‘The Talk’ Takes On Police Violence

Los Angeles—PBS documentary The Talk, a two-hour film exploring police interactions with minority citizens, has gained relevance due to recent headlines, but that’s not something that the network and filmmakers are inclined to celebrate.

Rather, as they expressed during a panel session for the project during TCA summer press tour, the film is staying true to its mission of stimulating a crucial dialogue. Its title refers to parents’ guidance to their kids about the safest way to behave during confrontations with police. Another meaning of the title is the larger need for discussion in the wake of a spate of police shootings across the country and violent reprisals against police in Dallas, Baton Rouge and elsewhere.

“The conversation about racism needs to happen, otherwise America is going to crumble,” said Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed by a Cleveland policeman in 2014. Added executive producer Julie Anderson, “We’re trying to start a conversation between races rather than separating races.”

The film weaves together five different plotlines—Rice and two other victims of shootings, plus two other segments about police training and community healing—shot by five different filmmakers. Principal photography has been completed and the film is being edited. PBS says it will come out in 2017. Anderson said an earlier air date was possible but depended on many network variables.

Trevena Garel, a retired New York police detective, said she has told her son and grandson, “They’re full of energy. They want to tell you, ‘What did I do? I didn’t do anything.’” Not resisting “is not fair at all, but we want them home.”

John Singleton, a filmmaker known for his 1991 debut, Boyz N The Hood, and an Emmy-nominated turn behind the camera on FX's People v. O.J. Simpson, said it is “debilitating” to have to adopt a passive mien in the face of police aggression. “There’s human nature and there’s cerebral nature," he said. "They don’t always connect, especially when you’re that young.”

Director and producer Sam Pollard said wider adoption of body cameras by police would undoubtedly be an improvement. “It helps all of us see that it happens,” he said. “I’m glad there are body cams out there so that people—white, black, Latino—can see it. You can see it.”

Rice said she was struck by a passage in the film in which a white police officer concedes that racism is ubiquitous across the country, including in law enforcement.

“To hear a white police officer say there is racism in America, you don’t really hear that often,” Rice said. “If he can use his white privilege to say that, it’s a positive thing.”