Brilliantly assembled from 20 years of home video footage, 17 Blocks chronicles four generations of the Sanford-Durant family, raised up by hope amid struggles with drug addiction and gun violence in their deeply troubled southeast D.C. neighborhood. The camera loves the Sanford-Durants, who emerge as recognizable, complex characters in a powerful drama keyed to single-mom Cheryls youngest son, Emmanuel, who was 9 when the family began shooting video in 1999. Tragedy is foreshadowed and unfolds inexorably, yet is nonetheless devastating when it arrives. The familys devotion to their self-documentation project is impressive, the raw beauty of their footage is astonishing and director Davy Rothbart and writer/editor Jennifer Teixeira render it into a found footage documentary masterpiece. Hope is real. Hope is alive. We have hope, everyone has hope," Cheryl says. "Theres hope for tomorrow, theres hope for better, thats all weve got.
- Davy Rothbart