'Power' by Ian Olds '06 Debuts on Netflix

Carlos Barragán
May 28, 2024

Power, a film edited and co-written by Adjunct Assistant Professor Ian Olds ’06, recently premiered at the IFC Center and is now available for streaming on Netflix. Directed by Yance Ford, this documentary addresses a crucial question: how did America come to grant so much authority to the police state? 

The film traces the origins of this power back to slavery, showing how modern policing evolved from the control that plantation owners exerted over their slaves and the subsequent suppression of Black Americans.

“[Power] has clear eyes on the past, synthesizing the work of several academics with a robust archival record to examine the origins, structure and impact of police power in the United States,” wrote The Guardian’s reviewer.

“As university administrators across the country (including our own here at Columbia) call in the police to crack down on and at times beat student protesters, I think of two things I relearned while editing and co-writing Power,” Olds said. “First, despite many white people’s illusion that police are here to protect us, police are now and have always been manifestations of state power designed to maintain a very specific social order. Second, there is a long history of police officials and administrators justifying excessive police crackdowns by profoundly misrepresenting protest movements.” 

He gave the example of officials in the 1960s who mistakenly believed that Black power movement leaders were puppets of the Soviet Union and part of a broader plot to destabilize America. “They did not see the movement as legitimate resistance to police brutality and systematic oppression and so felt completely justified in ordering an overly aggressive and brutal police response. When I see pro-Palestinian and anti-war protests roundly dismissed and painted with the broad brush of anti-semitism all I can think is, 'history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.'” 

Ian Olds was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work as director of both narrative and documentary films. Directing credits include Burn Country (winner Best Actor Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and released by Samuel Goldwyn Films), the Iraq war doc Occupation: Dreamland (short-listed for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award), and Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (winner of top jury prizes at Tribeca and Madrid, acquired by HBO Documentary Films and nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism). Olds’ short films have screened at numerous festivals including Sundance, Rotterdam, Los Angeles and his feature work has been supported by a MacDowell Fellowship, the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, the San Francisco Film Society, a Princess Grace Award, and a Media Arts Fellowship sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. Editing credits include Slow Machine (New York Film Festival), As I Lay Dying (Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard) and Cul De Sac: A Suburban War Story (Toronto International Film Festival).