Review: We Can’t Breathe- Eight Minutes and Forty-Six Seconds

By Merecedes J. Williams, Movie Scene Queen

Eight minutes and forty-six seconds is how long Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed against George Floyd’s neck on the concrete outside of Cups Food on Chicago Street in Minneapolis, MN. We later find out that one of the most gruesome videos of the 21st century lasted even longer than expected— 9 minutes, 29 seconds to be exact.


But eight minutes and forty-six seconds is more than a time stamp, it now represents a global push for change in police brutality, police reform, and police recruitment and training.


George Floyd’s death was avoidable.


In a short film that is 8 minutes and 46 seconds exactly, “We Can’t Breathe” portrays glimpses into the protests in Los Angeles following George Floyd’s death. Directors Miranda Winters and Rocky Romano make a striking comparison between LA protests in the 1960s to current demonstrations. Spilt screens in the short film only confirm one thing—the cries of Watts residents in 1965 are echoed in 2020 as a nation begs for the end of suffering at the hands of police brutality.


Fifty-six years later, we are still on a rugged journey to ask the sworn officials who are supposed to protect and serve us to not to kill us or use excessive force.

Courtesy of Film Pittsburgh


George Floyd’s death was avoidable.


“We Can’t Breathe” follows photographer, producer, and engineer Rayna Zemel as she covers dozens of LA protests. We watch her literally strap on her boots and prepare for capturing LA’s most vulnerable moments. It is evident that her creative eyes and social justice efforts have intertwined to create American history.


One hundred years from now when Civics and American History educators are creating lesson plans about the death of George Floyd and worldwide protests, Zemel’s images will surface and this short film with be revered.


George Floyd’s death was avoidable.


The film is all about the time. The time it took for George Floyd to release his last breath. The time protesters staged die-ins all over the world. The time required to make this film. “We Can’t Breathe”, as cliché as it sounds, reminds us that time is precious.


“We Can’t Breathe” was awarded Best Music Video and Audience Award at the 2021 San Luis Obispo Film Festival, and has been selected for numerous film festivals, including the Pittsburgh Shorts Film Festival.


The 2021 Pittsburgh Shorts Film Festival will be held November 18-21 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, presenting the best contemporary short films from around the globe, highlighting films that promote innovative visual storytelling and cultural tolerance.

This short film is part of the Opening Night- Be The Change block. The block also includes short films including Dawn, Graceland, Like the Ones I Used to Know, Migrants, Refrigerate After Opening, The Kittle Tea Shop, and I Can Change.


This year’s festival will also include a Filmmaker Conference, Q&As with visiting filmmakers, and live readings of scripts for the Script Competition. For more information, visit filmpittsburgh.org.

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