Murder Factory, a 2010 film by Avila University student Mike Rollen, loosely follows a Kansas City Star newspaper series documenting crime and violence in the 64130 zip code. While the Star series largely focused on the perpertators of crime, the gave voice to the people as victims affected by the homicides.
The film shares stories by dozens of community activists, poets, artists, youth, local government officials, and social service agency representatives. Gentlemen of the Roundtable, the group highlighted the most in the film, works to engage former prisoners in job skills training and counseling.
Filmmaker Mike Rollen answered questions after the film, stating the standing-room-only screening at the Glenwood Arts Theatre in Overland Park was the premiere showing. There were around 20 people in the theatre who appeared in the film.
Rollen appeared on Donna Wolfe's "Urban Connections" show on October 2, 2010 on KKFI-FM 90.1. Rollen gave props to the station during the film credits. Donna Wolfe reflected recently on the film, observing that the level of violence in the US is not surprising given the massive arms manufacturing and trade, TV shows like CSI, not to mention the propensity to inflict war throughout the world.
Theodore "Priest" Hughes, one of KKFI's newest board members, appeared in the film sharing his skills with the spoken word collective Recipe.
The film explores a difficult topic and places the context of the film in the African-American community by allowing residents to lecture, poeticize, preach, admonish, and grieve. He uses titles to break up the topics of the film, uses looping to highlight the discouraging statements of elected officials. During the opening sequence he loops KC Mayor Mark Fundhouser's speech about how "not a single thing" can be done right now.
Only one complaint: The ambitious documentary used a distracting soundtrack over the statements of earnest community activists and educators. At times the sound level almost drowned out their voices.
While the film highlights the racial element of those impacted -- both
victim and perpetrators are largely black -- several noted the economic
and income inequalities in the equation. Lloyd Daniel, activist,
poet, and former Missouri state representative, noted the loss of
identity to history and culture as a dominant cause for the problem,
though jabbed at the education system locked in a 50's mindset for its
part in mis-educating black youth.
It's easy to take a cynical stance on murder and violence in the "core," as several film characters mention. However, the destruction to lives and neighborhoods is unavoidable, as long-time KC Missouri School District teacher observed -- industrial and commercial businesses have closed on KC's east side, leaving abandoned buildings, declining income and wealth, and fewer job opportunities.