Cleveland International Film Festival } March 22 – April 1, 2023 } Playhouse Square

Down a Dark Stairwell

Year: 2020
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, English
Run Time: 83 minutes

Down a Dark Stairwell
Down a Dark Stairwell
Down a Dark Stairwell

In November 2014, Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by a police officer while walking down a dark stairwell in Brooklyn’s New York City Housing Authority Pink Houses. Peter Liang, a Chinese-American officer, was the person who shot the innocent Gurley, citing an “accidental discharge.” An all-too-familiar case of police violence against Black Americans became something different in the public eye due to Liang’s race. When he was the first cop to be convicted of manslaughter since 2005, some Chinese-American activists cried foul and rallied for Liang, insisting he was a victim of the same racist system that killed Gurley. Along with a multiracial coalition of activists, the Gurley family pushed against this narrative; someone needed to be held accountable for Gurley’s murder. Ursula Liang’s (no relation to Peter) journalistic documentary lends an empathic ear to two New York communities, both marginalized in different ways, as they navigate an uneven justice system. A nuanced look at this highly polarizing tragedy, DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL balances difficult conversations about race, justice, and organizing in hopes of better defining the ever-elusive concept of solidarity. — D.O.

CIFF45 Screenings

CIFF45 Streams On Demand

Thursday, April 08, 2021 at 11:00 AM -
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 11:59 PM

Streams Access: United States and US Territories
Accessibility (?)
Closed Captions: Yes
Audio Description: No
English Subtitles: No

Black Cinema
Pan-Asian Cinema

Reel Women Direct Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman
Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition


Ursula Liang

Ursula Liang, Rajal Pitroda

Ursula Liang, Rachel Lears, Justin Ervin, Brian Chu, Derek Howard, Lyric R. Cabral, Asad Faruqi, Jason Chau, Tinx Chan, Vanessa Carr, Nelson Walker III, Nausheen Dadabhoy

Michelle Chang, J.M. Harper

Film Contact
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