Several films are making their Michigan debut at the Freep Film Festival, including one about Detroit and its history of racial tensions and unrest. “The Riot Report” takes a look at the work of the Kerner Commission, formally known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, which President Lyndon Johnson empaneled to investigate the cause of the civil uprisings that erupted in the summer of 1967 in cities across the nation, including Detroit, the deadliest of cities, claiming 43 lives during that time.

The film will premiere at the 2024 Freep Film Festival on Saturday, April 13 at the Birmingham 8 Theatre. It will be played again on Sunday, April 14 at the Michigan Science Center and is scheduled to premiere nationally on May 21 on television as part of PBS’ American Experience series.


The documentary was directed by Michelle Ferrari, who also co-wrote and co-produced it with well-known author and journalist, Jelani Cobb. The film features a trove of archival material on the commission and interviews with commission staffers, including its sole surviving member Senator Fred Harris.

The Kerner Commission’s final report in 1968 offered a disparaging look at American race relations in the U.S. and was highly controversial when it was released. The documentary is being released at a time when race relations and social justice issues are still prevalent on the public agenda. Check out a preview of the film ahead of its premiere at this year’s Freep Film Festival.

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