the highway

The Highway.png

Highway protests against police violence in the U.S. have proliferated since Michael Brown's shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and continue as more police killings have taken place unabated and with little consequence for the officers involved, as with the most recent high profile case of Stephon Clark in Sacramento.

While most Americans support the idea of freedom of assembly, in practice, there is little knowledge of the origins of exercising this right by blocking roads. Meanwhile, the desire for convenient travel becomes asserted as a "right" on the equal level of those in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. These contentious, polarized views ultimately serve to distract from the real issues — the disproportionate violence against black people in the U.S. by law enforcement and the history of devaluing black lives by the State.

The Highway is a short animated film that explores the dynamics and history of protests as a patriotic act and the State-sanctioned violence against black lives, along with related cultural, historic, and mythological antecedents. Toy-scale recreations of events are accompanied by layered audio of quotes from non-fiction writers such as Ta-nehisi Coates and Tim Wise, news coverage, protest events, statements from victim’s families, comments by anti-protesters, poetry, literature, philosophy, symbolic music, and other sources.

A highway protest is the main contemporary storyline that bookends the film. It begins with regular traffic, to highway protestors overtaking the freeway, to the confrontation with police. Other scenes that explore associated subjects include: the Boston Tea Party; a contemporary anti-protester at home; a séance with Achsa Sprague, spiritualist and abolitionist; Odysseus facing the Sirens in the Middle Passage; the Revolutions of 1848 (the February Revolution in France); and the lynching of Laura and L. D. Nelson and the associated postcards.


A film by Jennifer Crystal Chien