The film is Say Her Name. And that name is Sandra Bland.
WIFF’s debut of the powerful new documentary Say My Name chronicles the events surrounding the suspicious in custody death of Bland, affectionately known as Sandy, an outspoken Social Media Blogger/Activist, following her arrest in Waller County, Texas.
Three weeks following her suspicious death in a county jail, her family was bound and determined to find out what happened to their beloved sister and daughter – the result is this fascinating, powerful and dramatic documentary.
All the commotion started with a media storm of incidents involving a well-publicized burst of police brutality which sparked massive protests throughout Houston. Bland became an icon of the “Black Lives Matter” movement as a result of this. Although her death was not caused by the hands of any specific officer, it was a problem within the justice system itself.
Bland was allegedly found hung in her cell just three days after her controversial traffic stop and subsequent arrest. Her death was deemed a suicide, but her family, mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and sisters (Shante Needham and Sharon Cooper) wouldn’t accept that simple answer. Throughout the documentary, they navigate the legal system with the help of a lawyer (Cannon Lambert) to bring to justice those that failed Bland within the system.
The result of their work was a bill presented and aptly named the Sandra Bland Act. The “Sandra Bland Act” evolved as it moved through the legislative process amid criticism from law enforcement officials. Authored by state Sen. John Whitmire, the act would mandate that county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment. The process would make it easier for defendants with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond and require that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths.
The agency would be any appointed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and cannot be the agency that operates the county jail.
But this story doesn’t have a happy ending or a hero’s ending as we’d expect. Instead, the act was not passed as originally drawn up, but was stripped-down to a bare minimum.
Directors Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, along with Lambert and Bland’s sisters, were on hand for the Windsor screening answering questions from guests and curious audience members. In the end, the panelists suggested that people vote and keep those who are supposed to be accountable, actually accountable.
Say My Name will premiere on HBO in December.