Baltimore in Shades of Grey

A few days have passed since the closing night of the 16th annual Maryland Film Festival (MFF), and the overall consensus seems that it was a huge success–despite lacking The Charles as a venue. In its stead, there were several new venues, one of which was the Langsdale Library Auditorium.

On our blog, we have previously discussed the illustrious cinematic history of the auditorium, but today I would like to discuss another film that premiered in the Landsdale Library Auditorium during MFF: BALTIMORE IN BLACK IN WHITE (2014). A documentary feature, co-directed by Emily Topper and Mary Posatko, it focuses on one of the filmmakers themselves. Emily Topper was born and raised in the Edmondson Village neighborhood of Baltimore, and the film follows her and her crew through the maze of grief and memory in search of answers to the 1972 murder of her grandfather.

The filmmakers create a sense of place without using archival footage or very many historical photographs. There is present-day footage of the specific landmarks involved in the story, along with a few family pictures from the time. It was less a historical documentary, and more of historiographical process: they try to find the transcripts of the trial, but they were lost in a flood at the Maryland State Archives; they try to conduct interviews of those who attended the trial and lived through the aftermath, but they find that firsthand accounts are often biased and changeable. One of the only interviews of a non-directly-involved participant is that of former Baltimore City Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who grew up in Edmondson Village during the time, and (side note) who has just been announced this morning as the new President of the University of Baltimore.

There isn’t necessarily a strict conclusion to the documentary, and all of its players come across much more complex than initially introduced, and historical truth as much less (dare I write it?) black and white, more a limited smattering of shades of grey.

<<Siobhan Hagan, AV Archivist

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