FLEFF Profile: Idrissou Mora-Kpai & America Street

By Kayla Wilkins, March 23, 2021
“Lynchings haven’t stopped, just now the police have a gun.” 

A quick overview of the film America Street and insight from an interview with Idrissou Mora-Kpai

“Lynchings haven’t stopped, just now the police have a gun.” 

This is one of the stand-out quotes found in Idrissou Mora-Kpai’s film America Street. Among all of Mora-Kpai’s films, there is a story to be told for those who haven’t had a voice before. 

Idrissou Mora-Kpai is one of the many filmmakers whose work is being showcased during this year’s Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. Mora-Kpai along with being a Documentary Studies professor at Ithaca College, is an award-winning filmmaker that is more than versed in the world of film festivals. 

The story being told this time takes place in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Following the murder of Walter Scott, a black man shot who was fatally shot by a police officer. The film follows Joe Watson, a well-known corner store worker, and explores the plight of a black community facing racial bias, systemic racism, and gentrification. 

Mora-Kpai and Joe Watson are able to make this narrative happen all within the corner store.  Watson drives the story with his point of view and eagerness to interact. 

Mora-Kpai explained that Watson was close with the postman to the point where Joe was like a secondary postman for about 15 people in the neighborhood. 

Which turned out to be great for filming because Watson would know people would stop through the corner store before they went home in order to get their mail and the interactions and conversations about the events taking place around them were all captured. 

Not long after filming had commenced, the Charleston Church shooting happened. 

Mora-Kpai explained that this type of violence wasn’t originally a part of the idea for the film, but when telling a story of injustice they were extremely relevant. 

The information about the recent murders had come to Mora-Kpai’s attention through the corner store. He said he saw the reaction of Watson and his clients and was moved. 

America Street holds a certain standpoint of relevance whereas years later, America is still facing the same issues.

With the spark of injustices that occurred over 2020 or just came to light, it is clear that systemic racism has not faltered in this country.

America Street is not only a portrayal of this corner store nestled in Charleston, South Carolina but also a portrayal of issues across the United States.