Animated Short ‘Cops and Robbers’ Packs Powerful Message About Police Brutality

In the animated short awards contender “Cops and Robbers,” directors Arnon Manor and Timothy Ware-Hill feature powerful imagery and a mix of animation styles to deliver a poignant message in response to Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.

With a 7-minute run time, more than 30 artists and animators stepped in to share their perspectives on racial inequality and violence, based on a poem Ware-Hill had written.

The project came together with the help of Jada Pinkett Smith, executive producer of “Cops and Robbers.” “After all this time, we still have to have a conversation about how Black female voices are imperative in the creative process,” she says. “It’s about time that it’s simply just a given.”

Kelli Williams, a Philadelphia community artist, used stop-motion animation for her segment, which shows a Black woman in tears with protest signs behind her as we slowly discover the reason for her emotion. “The visual of the segment was inspired by the idea that families of victims of police brutality, specifically high-profile cases like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, are forced to grieve publicly,” says Williams.

The striking power behind her image reflected frustration with the state of the world. “‘Cops and Robbers,’” Williams notes, “gave us an opportunity to process our feelings through art.”

Jasmine Kenya, a 2D animator and illustrator, used that method to draw the face of Ware-Hill — who also serves as writer and narrator — using the eye of a poet to deliver searing images of a marginalized community. The animator says she hopes the film “helps viewers sympathize with the way racial injustice has impacted our lives.”

Adds Pinkett Smith: “It’s clear how important ‘Cops and Robbers’ is because there is still so much ignorance around the Black experience in this country as a whole. Black women are equally a part of that experience — so yes, our voices are indispensable.”

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