Documentary exploits racism, systemic injustice in North Omaha
March 26, 2019
Out of Omaha is a documentary that focuses on the lives of twin brothers Darcell and Darell Trotter. The film follows Darcell closely through his life in North Omaha and claims to focus on the systemic injustices of the city.
The documentary’s producer Ryan Johnston’s father served North Omaha through a non-profit organization that was created to guide and aid the youth in this part of the city. “When we met Darcell he was 17, he went to Omaha Northwest and he had been in the youth prison on gun charges” Johnston said. The film follows the journey of Darcell as he took part in this non-profit program.
The documentary was filmed over the course of eight years and “filming was sporadic over that period” Johnston said, “we would come back to Omaha three to five times a year”. Johnston said “Darcell invested so much into the story”, which made the filming process easier and more accessible.
Johnston said that the film was created to highlight the “insane barriers that are faced by people in poverty”. The documentary was focused on the injustices faced by the African-American community in Omaha and Johnston said “I think the complexity of the situation is something the film depicted”.
The film attempted to educate the audience about the modern effects of redlining and racism. Redlining is the process of residential racial segregation that can be seen throughout Omaha. This directly affected Darcell’s life and Johnston said “we witnessed Darcell’s story and that’s what we were presenting”.
The story focused on the 68111 zipcode and the fact that this small section of Omaha has a mean income that amounts to only half of the average income of the rest of the city. “There’s tremendous wealth in Omaha, but there’s a certain segment of the population that has no access to it” Johnston said.
The executive producer for this film was J. Cole, an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. Cole was interested in the project and wanted to help by aiding in the production process. “It just shows how amazing those guys [celebrities] are” Johnston said.
Although Johnston says the film was not meant to be a call to action, he still hopes people will be inspired enough to reach out to their community. “If the film moves you… call the experts in the community and see how you can help” Johnston said.
Out of Omaha was screened at the DocNYC festival and won the audience award, but what Johnston valued most was the reception of the film in Omaha. Both of the two screenings of the documentary overfilled the theater and received positive feedback from the audience. “To have that validation from the Omaha community meant the world to us” Johnston said. The film is not officially out yet, but when it is released, the producer hopes to have many more screenings in Omaha.