Down a Dark Stairwell: Special Screening and Live Panel

USA202083 minEnglish, Cantonese, Mandarin with English SubtitlesDocumentary, Women Filmmakers

Only Available in Ontario

Down a Dark Stairwell takes a nuanced and careful look at the events following the 2014 case where Akai Gurley was shot and killed in the stairwell of an apartment building by Chinese-American NYPD officer Peter Liang.

Director Ursula Liang (no relation to Peter) and her crew follow the Black Lives Matter protests rallying around Gurley’s family to support a conviction, while also following various predominantly Asian American communities’ protest responses to what they deem an unfair trial.

In our current context of urgent calls for accountability around excessive police violence, Down A Dark Stairwell’s raw and honest witness to the ways racial politics fissure and divide us feels timely and necessary. In documenting multiple communities’ response to every new development from the event, the film contends with how fraught and limited notions of justice can be, and the devastating violence that the policing system inflicts on Black communities.

- Jasmine Gui


True/False Film Festival, 2020
Visions du Réel, 2020
Blackstar Film Festival, 2020

Best Documentary, Ashland Independent Film Festival 2020

Director Bio

Ursula Liang

Ursula Liang is a journalist-turned-filmmaker. After working in print (ESPN The Magazine, T: The New York Times Magazine), she directed two critically-acclaimed feature documentaries, 9-Man and Down a Dark Stairwell. Ursula lives in the Bronx, N.Y.

12 Nov, 2020 7:00 pm

to 13 Nov, 2020 7:00 pm

Live Panel Discussion, November 12 at 8:45PM


With Support From

Live panel discussion with special guests

Accompanying our opening night screening presentation of Down a Dark Stairwell is a live online discussion with special guests.

ASL interpretation supported and made available by Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Services. Active listener available from 8:30PM – 11:30PM.

November 12, 2020 at 8:45PM

Syrus Marcus Ware
Activist and artist

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus uses painting, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and black activist culture. He is part of the Performance Disability Art Collective and a core-team member of Black Lives Matter – Toronto. 

Ursula Liang
Director, Down A Dark Stairwell

Ursula Liang is a journalist-turned-filmmaker. After working in print (ESPN The Magazine, T: The New York Times Magazine), she directed two critically-acclaimed feature documentaries, 9-Man and Down a Dark Stairwell. Ursula lives in the Bronx, N.Y.

J.M. Harper
Editor and co-writer, Down a Dark Stairwell

J.M. Harper is a documentarian. Down A Dark Stairwell is his third documentary feature as editor. He’s currently editing a feature documentary about Kanye West. His work has been featured on AdWeek, Vimeo Staff Picks, FADER and the Guggenheim.

Michelle Chang
Editor, Down a Dark Stairwell

Michelle Chang is a Brooklyn-based editor of documentary features as well as short form projects. Feature credits include When Claude Got Shot, Harbor From the Holocaust, 9-MAN, Like Any Other Kid, (A)Sexual, American Promise (Additional Editor for POV Broadcast, Emmy nomination). Before becoming an editor, Michelle was an associate producer for ABC News “20/20” and “Primetime.”

Director note:

This case captured the attention of national media and highlighted what we in our respective communities have known for a long time: we are not united. In fact, in low whispers with problematic language, we often talk about one another. But what we are not talking about is the many reasons why this space between us exists: bubbles created by social media filters and propaganda, white supremacy, structural oppression, social inequality and isolation.

I want to learn from these conversations. To look at how the complexities of this case reflect the complexities of our fight for humanity, agency and respect. To talk about whether the battles we fight bring us power or dissipate it. And to examine who really benefits when marginalized groups are divided.

- Ursula Liang

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