17 Blocks

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Nine year old Emmanuel began filming himself and his family with a home video camera in 1999, capturing his Washington D.C. neighborhood through the eyes of an innocent child. Growing up just 17 blocks from the U.S. Capitol, however, proved more difficult than expected. Filmmaker, journalist, and frequent This American Life contributor Davy Rothbart befriended the Sanford family as they continued to document their daily life over a 20-year period in a city plagued by poverty, addiction, and gun violence.

Did You Know?


  • The title of the film refers to the distance in blocks between the home of the family shown and the Capitol building in the center of Washington.
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May 4, 2019

Considering that it was filmed in bits and pieces over two decades, it's not surprising that 17 Blocks is disjointed in its storytelling, nor that its technical elements are ragged (subtitles are frequently employed due to poor sound quality). But it nonetheless packs a potent emotional punch.

Metacritic review by Frank Scheck
Frank Scheck
The Hollywood Reporter
May 4, 2019

17 Blocks ... is packed with gritty realism, and at times its uncensored honesty almost makes you want to look away.

Stephen Whitty
Screen Daily