How One New York Artist Is Protesting Police Brutality

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Dancers Ezra Swift and Jon Olstad.

Photographer and filmmaker Erik Madigan Heck had been thinking about making a film protesting police brutality for nearly a year. "It seems like every four or five days, you turn on the TV and see another death," he says, and he wanted to do something about it. "I can write a Facebook rant, but everybody does that, and I don’t think it would be helpful."

So he made a film, The Enemy, putting two dancers — one dressed like a police officer — in a confrontation that looks familiar at first, thanks to the incidents caught on film in the past few years. 

He worked with choreographer Elena Vazintaris and filmed most of the dance in the streets of Red Hook. An NYPD officer watched while the dance was filmed — a law-enforcement officer always has to be on site when someone is impersonating a police officer for an open-air performance or shoot in New York, in case another officer drives by and gets the wrong idea. "That was eye-opening," Heck says. "That seemed to validate the whole point of the film."

Despite the subject matter, Heck sees his film as a "hopeful" one. "I see this film as very positive. It’s left pretty open, but pointing toward reconciliation."