After her 2017 directorial debut Baltimore Rising, “the last thing I wanted to do was a film about law enforcement,” Sonja Sohn told MovieMaker. Six months later, she began work on her second documentary set in Baltimore — The Slow Hustle.
The Wire star’s first documentary, Baltimore Rising, was about protests in the city following the death of Freddie Gray after he was arrested by Baltimore police in 2015. The Slow Hustle, which premiered this week on HBO, follows the twists and turns of the mysterious death of Baltimore police officer Sean Suiter.
“Energetically, I think for me, what a lot of folks felt during June of 2020 when George Floyd was killed, and Briana Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, when all of those deaths occurred in succession — I was feeling that during the filming of Baltimore Rising,” Sohn said. “The corruption was unfolding as I was completing Baltimore Rising. I saw that there was an opportunity probably to bring something to the table.”
There’s an eerie connection between Sohn’s first doc and the subject of her second.
“Detective Suiter passed away the day before our premiere [of Baltimore Rising],” Sohn said. “We were going to cancel it, but we went forward with it. And so there was something sort of auspicious about that or synchronistic about that. I’m one for those kinds of inklings.”
Suiter was a Black detective in the Baltimore Police Department who was shot and killed while on duty on Nov. 15, 2017. Though the Baltimore Police Department ultimately called Suiter’s death a suicide, his family does not believe he would have taken his own life and continues to search for answers. Suiter’s death drew national attention, and conspiracy theories have been running rampant ever since. Because Suiter was scheduled to testify in court against fellow Baltimore police officers the day after his death, one of the predominant theories is that his death was a cover-up from within the police force itself.
Also Read: Rocky Director John G Avildsen Almost Directed Saturday Night Fever — Until His Feud With John Travolta
“As I became more knowledgeable… there seemed to be missing pieces. And those missing pieces hearken to a potential injustice that could speak volumes,” Sohn said. “[Author] D. Watkins said something in the film that I was thinking, and that is — if something untoward happened to this officer, and this can happen to a police officer, then what does that mean for the rest of us?”
She got the idea for the title, The Slow Hustle, from Watkins — who is the New York Times best-selling author of The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America — as well.
“The Slow Hustle comes from from from D. [Watkins]. But why I like the title is that it also speaks to what to me could have been a hustling of the family — the slow hustle of this family where they trust the [Baltimore Police] Department until they realize, wait a minute — are they hustling us?”
The Slow Hustle is now streaming on HBO Max. Main Image: Sean Suiter (left) and his wife, pictured in The Slow Hustle. Photo Credit: HBO