In the six-part docu-series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” the filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason recount the teenager’s life and his deadly encounter with George Zimmerman in a gated townhouse community outside Orlando. Through interviews with key players, including Mr. Martin’s family and Don West, a defense lawyer for Mr. Zimmerman, the directors zero in on what they see as a flawed criminal justice system. They also make an argument that the divisive case (in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter) galvanized both the Black Lives Matter movement and white nationalists.
The documentary makes a case for viewing Trayvon Martin’s death and the Zimmerman verdict as a turning point that galvanized progressive political activists and white supremacists alike. Did it help spark your own desire to be more publicly outspoken about politics?
I wouldn’t use that as the catalyst. So many things have been going on and the whole climate in America has changed again. I mean, obviously, I think it was the pendulum swinging back from Obama being president. I feel like it was festering and I think the Obama administration just brought those frustrations to another place where people can spread the propaganda of hate.
Also, on the flip side, we’re looking at people who, in areas like Middle America, were not really taken care of. You know? They vote for Democrats because their parents voted Democrat and America was a different place at that time. The middle class was allowed to thrive and there was steel in Indiana and the car jobs in Detroit and all these places where these factories were to provide a way for you to start somewhere in low income, get middle class and then maybe end up with the house of your dreams. This was the American dream and it was real. Then that America changed and no one addressed that.
The filmmakers and Mr. Martin’s parents hope “Rest in Power,” which debuts Monday on the Paramount Network and BET, moves Mr. Martin beyond the realm of symbolism and demonstrates the costs of ignoring these issues. “I hope people walk away knowing who Trayvon Martin really was,” Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, said.
“I want people to walk away having a clear view of what this country is about right now, and not what they thought it is,” she added.
The docu-series was first announced in early 2017 as part of a production partnership between Jay-Z and The Weinstein Company. But the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein have been scrubbed from the credits of “Rest in Power” since the publication of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times and The New Yorker last year. (The company did not have editorial input on the series, according to Paramount, which said it “owns and financed the project” in full. Ms. Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, have said that the Weinstein Company owes them money for the rights to their book, which served as source material for the documentary.)