One of the films in the series Arboring Film: 15 Years at Northwest Film Forum is, of course, Police Beat. (We Go Way Back, Silence!, Money Buys Happiness, and Naked Proof are also in this excellent series.) Made by Robinson Devor and me, Police Beat was written in 2002, was shot in 2003, entered competition at Sundance in 2005, and became a part of the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection in 2008. All of the success the film has enjoyed would not have been possible without the lead actor, Pape Sidy Niang, a tall and noble Senegalese Muslim who died unexpectedly this summer in Thailand.
The exact cause of Pape's death is not known to me or others who worked on Police Beat, but it seems not to have involved foul play. From his wife: "He passed away on 5 July 2010 in Thailand of natural causes—we don't know what happened as a postmortem was not conducted for religious reasons. He'd been in Thailand for a few months and collapsed and died whilst training. As you will I'm sure know, Pape's first love was football." Indeed, that's how we discovered him, while he was playing soccer at Seattle Center. We were desperately looking for a young African to play the role. Young Africans are not easy to find in Seattle. And, like a miracle, there he was, the perfect person for the part.
Pape, who was in his early 20s when we shot the film, spent only a small part of his short life in Seattle. This was not his first or last city; it was a place he simply passed through. Yet during this brief passing, he made a movie that's all about this city—its streets, crimes, passions, madness, and hunger. Pape shall be deeply missed. Arboring Film: Celebrating 15 Years at Northwest Film Forum, through Sept 30.