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Window into Baltimore

Charm City, a new documentary on Baltimore crime, is worth watching

Window into Baltimore

Clayton “Mr. C” Guyton, who appears in Charm City, speaks at a morning community meeting in the heart of East Baltimore. (Andre Lambertson)

A Baltimore moment:

I’ve covered a few stories in Baltimore post-Freddie Gray, and police-community relations have, sadly, continued to suffer big setbacks. The city has seen a recent spike in violence, and the police department is reeling after a major corruption case and the resignation of its police chief over allegations of tax evasion. 

“There are neighborhoods that are crying out,” one City Council member told The Baltimore Sun last month, capturing how it feels being there. 

Just in time, an excellent new documentary on crime and police-community relations in Baltimore is hitting theaters this month—and will air on PBS next spring. I saw Charm City at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, and it is a helpful window into the Baltimore communities that are facing most of the violence. (Are we in a golden year of good documentaries?)

Charm City offers an empathetic eye to the community, to local politicians, and also to the police. It focuses on the stories of a community center leader trying to keep people out of trouble, of residents trying to escape violence, of city Councilman Brandon Scott, and of police officer Eric Winston. By telling their stories, it gives multidimensional perspectives on crime in a way that the HBO show The Wire did. 

The film hints at the Christian DNA in these communities—churches are involved in these efforts, and neighborhood meetings open with prayer. One character talks about, when things get “twisted,” the importance of going to “the un-twister, the Almighty.” You’ll leave wanting Baltimore to flourish, because you see the vibrancy and joy beneath the city’s suffering. 

Worth your time:  

Here’s a visually creative story about a garden for the poor on the Lower East Side (incidentally, one block from the Bowery Mission, a longtime ministry to the homeless) that became an ultra-swanky hotel. If nothing else, the story is a gift to the longtime neighborhood residents so they can remember a place that is no more. 

This week I learned:

British Prime Minister Theresa May has named a new role, suicide prevention minister, to address the thousands of suicides England sees each year. May appears to be tuned in to our society’s current “despair epidemic”—she created the role of minister of loneliness earlier this year.

Culture I am consuming: 

Maniac, a new series on Netflix, is a sort of psychological thriller with a Wes Anderson flair. My friend compared it to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is on the money. Sally Field is great as usual.

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at