EXCLUSIVE: Interview With George Amponsah, Director of The Hard Stop - RightsInfo

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With George Amponsah, Director of The Hard Stop

George Amponsah’s documentary about the aftermath of the police’s fatal shooting of Londoner Mark Duggan, which sparked the 2011 London riots, came out on general release in the UK on 15 July and has got rave reviews. We interview its director George Amponsah to find out more.

George Amponsah chose to explore the events following Mark Duggan’s fatal shooting by police in Tottenham in 2011 through two of his closest friends. The documentary follows Marcus Knox-Hooke and Kurtis Henville as they try to get their lives together and achieve justice for Mark following their friend’s death by the police.


Mark Duggan’s shooting is widely recognised to have sparked the London 2011 riots

RightsInfo managed to catch George’s documentary at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival back in March.

The documentaries you have previously directed are about themes as wide ranging as the 2010 African World Cup and professional boxing in Ghana. What led you to consider covering the events around the Mark Duggan killing in London?

“I was born and raised in London over 4 decades ago so I really wanted to make a film which was about my home. When the opportunity came along to make ‘The Hard Stop’ it felt like one of those serendipitous moments in life which you have to jump all over.”

The Hard Stop received a very emotional response from the audience at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival audience on the evening of Sunday March 13. This was possibly because of the themes of injustice in society and the humanity of a victim. Did you set out to make any statements on those themes?

Yes. Definitely. In the end I think the film works both as a narrative story and also a character study. In storytelling characters are defined by the actions they take.

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A still of Marcus Knox-Hooke from The Hard Stop

In The Hard Stop the truth is found in the actions Marcus and Kurtis (Mark Duggan’s childhood friends) are engaged in by the end of the film. They are trying to change which makes them somewhat heroic. Then with the deaths in police custody (or following police actions) statistic that comes on screen at the end credits it makes audiences think that what happened to Mark Duggan could just as well have happened to the two guys whose humanity has been on screen for the last 90 minutes…that creates a sense of injustice.”

RightsInfo is all about providing useful information about human rights to the public. What human rights if any come into The Hard Stop?

“I think every human has the right to be viewed as such …as a human being …not as a fixed embodiment of something that’s wrong with society.

 ‘The Hard Stop’ starts with a quote by Martin Luther King: ‘A riot is the language of the unheard’. In other words every member of a just and democratic society should have the right to have their views listened to by the powers that be.

A riot is the language of the unheard

Also our film ends with a Tolstoy quote: ‘Everyone wants to change the world…but no one wants to change themselves’

In other words everyone has the capacity to change and if they are serious in that intention then they should have the right to do that.”

RightsInfo celebrated the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March with a series of posts about the history of racial equality in the UK and on people who have done great things for race equality. How did you celebrate?


Demonstration by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) Outside Whitehall, 26 October 2013

“Ask me next year.”

We will do! What will your next project be?

“Probably a drama based on real events.”

We can’t wait to see it. Thanks so much for your time George.

You can see George talk about The Hard Stop here: 

  • You can see the trailer for The Hard Stop here
  • Check out our Explainer on how human rights fight race discrimination. 
  • And for our post on ‘Why Do Black People Get Searched More By The Police?’ click here
Riots Photo © NotFromUtrecht (talk), used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Burnt Out CarpetRight image © Alan Stanton, used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence.

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About the Author

Anna Dannreuther

Anna Dannreuther is a Fellow at the Legal Aid Society of New York, working in their Immigration Law Unit. She represents women and children in their immigration proceedings. View all posts by Anna Dannreuther.
EXCLUSIVE: Interview With George Amponsah, Director of The Hard Stop
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