TIFF 2021: Hold Your Fire dir. Stefan Forbes

New York. 1973.

While it looks like a different time on film, not everything has changed, and consequently, Forbes documentary, which looks at a hostage situation that featured around the clock coverage at the time is just as relevant today as it was then. There’s errors on both sides, accusations, instituionalised racism, redemption for some, and questionable definitions of justice.

Four young men, who made a huge mistake when they decided to steal some guns (done to protect themselves and their familes from dangers that the police couldn’t be bothered with), and got caught up in a situation that spun out of their control when the police arrived mid theft, and caused a hostage situation.

It’s horrifying to hear how some of the officers talk, both at the time, and now in up-to-date interviews. In fact all the interviews Forbes conducted are relevant, and revealing. The police could all be defined as a-type personalities, and weren’t interested in resolving the situation peacefully. And those officers who were trained in psychology, and called into help, were seen as less than men because of their education and attitudes. Inside the sport store, the hostage takers, and their hostages confront a number of truths about themselves and the world they live in.

There are many sides to the truth, and it must be somewhere in the versions of the tale that those involved tell. Everybody is trying to make themselves look like they did what they thought was right or were behaving by the book, but it seems only a few actually learned from it.

To hear veteran officers say that there was no racism in the force, or that they weren’t corrupt or violent rings false, as history and present day continue to illustrate, and one has to question why some more negotiation skills aren’t taught and expected.

While those in the sport shop who held hostages sound like they have grown, are redemptive, and working to make sure things like this never happen again, one could question what happens on the other side of the thin blue line.

It’s a gut punch of a doc, and it’s epilogue is heartbreaking. Hold Your Fire is an important film to see, and it screens at TIFF one last time on Monday.

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