Sonja Sohn’s new documentary premieres in Baltimore tonight with the literal red carpet treatment.
“Baltimore Rising,” the new HBO documentary about Freddie Gray’s April 2015 death in police custody and the subsequent waves of violence, activism and attempted police reform, doesn’t premiere for most of the world until Monday, Nov. 20. But thanks to its obviously central role in the film, Baltimore will get an early screening tonight with a red carpet affair at the Charles Theater in Station North.
The film will also be screening four times at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African-American History downtown on Saturday.
Sohn, who famously starred as Det. Kima Greggs in “The Wire” and directed the documentary, will be at the premiere, a spokesperson confirmed, as will other local activists and community members captured on-screen. A post-screening reception will follow at Pen and Quill next door.
HBO is also hosting “BaltiMORE for Us,” a conference that will include a series roundtables and panel talks this weekend in celebration of the movie’s release. Discussions, planned in partnership with activists, groups and nonprofits, are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Lewis Museum.
Friday’s sole talk will be “Reclaiming the Future of Black News Media,” hosted by activist and documentary star Makayla Gilliam-Price, starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday’s discussions include “Moving from Protest to Policy: Making Advocacy Count,” and “Funding Black Futures,” among others. A community reception to close out the conference is also scheduled for Saturday, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Sohn, a native of Newport News, Va., helped create the film in part because of the attachment she developed for Baltimore after many years of working on “The Wire.” After the show ended, she founded ReWired for Change, an East Baltimore-based nonprofit that, according to its website, “empowers at risk youth, families and communities living in underserved areas.”
Sohn also hosted a speaker series around the city in 2016 about the history of redlining in Baltimore, and spoke at a panel on the anniversary of Gray’s death with authors D. Watkins and Tariq Toure, as well as NFL-er-turned-artist and teacher Aaron Maybin.
“Upon my return to the city after the Freddie Gray incident, I kept hearing city residents speaking over and over again about the need to reframe Baltimore’s narrative,” Sohn said in a statement. “There was a desire to give voice to a different community narrative – not one of oppression, resistance and resilience, but a narrative that revolves around the existence of community power and a history of making change that occurs in Baltimore in spite of the history of neglect underserved communities have felt throughout the years.”
Her film follows prominent activists around town, such as Kwame Rose and Adam Jackson, as well as an addiction recovery specialist at Penn North Recovery Center and police officials, including Commissioner Kevin Davis and Lt. Colonel Melvin Russell, chief of BPD’s Community Partnership Division. It seeks to capture the dueling narratives and push for cultural and institutional change during and after the Uprising.
The red carpet premiere begins tonight at 6 p.m. at the Charles Theater, located at 1711 N. Charles Street. Click here to RSVP for any additional screenings, talks or workshops at the Lewis Museum.