Home Arts & Entertainment Trio of local filmmakers focuses on gun violence in the city

Trio of local filmmakers focuses on gun violence in the city

Filmmakers Matthew Orsini (top left), Anton Moore (right) and Jaime Borras (center)
created Weight of Death, a documentary series that takes a look at gun violence in Philadelphia. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

He’s seen the shootings and violence, and the heartbreak that followed on the streets of  Philadelphia. Anton Moore decided it needed to be shared with a larger audience.

Moore, a community activist and founder of Unity in the Community, produced a documentary series called “Weight of Death” that explores inner-city violence and its long-term effects among victims and their families. The first episode of the five-part series is now streaming at www.weightofdeath.com. The finished product was a satisfying outcome for Moore, a South Philly resident.

“Working in gun violence activism and seeing this come to life feels really good,” Moore said. “It didn’t hit me until we were at the screening and seeing all the people showing up. But watching it again on the screen, man, this was it. I searched other documentaries on gun violence on the internet. Nothing is going to top this. When you are passionate about something and you care about issues, things will come together. Your passion will spill over into what you see on screen. It makes you proud.”

Weight of Death was executively produced by Moore, along with fellow South Philadelphian Matthew Orsini and Mayfair resident Jaime Borras as the pair mastered the directing, shooting and editing. The idea arose three and a half years ago, and the film takes a hard and uncomfortable look at recent shootings in Philadelphia. The first episode centers on the death of 23-year-old Penn State University student Dominique Oglesby, who was fatally shot in the back on March 18 in West Philadelphia. According to police, Oglesby’s father and grandfather intervened in an argument Oglesby was having with another woman and a man at the Galaxy West Lodge on the 5200 block of Market Street that afternoon. All three family members were shot outside the bar and Dominique Oglesby, a promising young singer, didn’t survive.

The documentary interviews Dominique’s mother Danielle, who spoke with excitement but also heartbreak about her daughter’s potential. Dominique was just three weeks away from graduating college.

“You hear about the victim on the night it happens but you never hear about the victim’s family,” Borras said. “A lot of victims don’t get opportunities to express what they’re going through.”

Orsini noticed a similar trend and hoped the film would bring some of those stories to life.

“For the actual families to sit there and accept the work that you did and to say how good it was is already a winner for us,” said Orsini. “For the world to see it is a big plus. I’m super proud.”

Moore was able to pull some big names for the documentary, including hip hop artist and South Philadelphia native Meek Mill. It also features District Attorney Larry Krasner, Prisons Department Commissioner Blanche Carney, emergency room physician Dr. Erica Harris of Einstein Hospital and Shondell Revell, executive director, Office of Violence Prevention.

“We were wheeling and dealing,” Moore said with a laugh. “When we went to interview Meek Mill, we waited three or four hours and then we had to shoot him riding in a car to his rehearsal. Another (interview), we had to go to New York for. It wasn’t easy but it worked out.”

The film also gets testimony via candid interviews from several shooting victim survivors.

“It’s crazy because people getting shot doesn’t mean they were doing anything wrong,” Borras said. “That’s the misconception. God forbid, anybody could drive by right now and get shot. It could happen to anyone.”

The film focuses on the families that have to cope with tragedies like Ogelsby’s.

“It’s tough to not get choked up when you’re interviewing them,” Orsini said. “They’re putting you at the scene without actually being there. There were times I got emotional.”

Weight of Death had a sold-out preview screening hosted by the Philadelphia Film Society at a drive-in-style event earlier this month. It was the first step in taking their work publicly and gaining attention on a much larger scale.

Philadelphia has surpassed 435 homicides already in 2020, which represents a 40-percent increase from last year. The year-end total figures to be the highest in decades in the city.

“You hear about mass shootings in other places and urban violence seems to get tucked away,” Moore said. “A lot of mass shootings happen in Philadelphia every day. And it’s not talked about on the national level. We want to make sure it gets talked about and people realize and recognize this is happening.”

Moore said he not only wants people to see his film. He wants there to be a conversation about it afterward.

“We’re going to challenge some people and challenge their minds and thought process,” Moore said. “We’re showing people what gun violence looks like at this current point.”

For more information and updates, visit www.theweightofdeath.com or social media accounts @weightofdeath on Instagram and Twitter.

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