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Crips and Bloods: Made in America [DVD]
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From the genesis of LAs gang culture to the shocking, war-zone reality of daily life in the South L.A., the film chronicles the rise of the Crips and Bloods, tracing the origins of their bloody four-decade-long feud. Contemporary and former gang members offer their street-level testimony that provides the film with a stark portrait of modern-day gang life: the turf wars and territorialism, the inter-gang hierarchy and family structure, the rules of behavior, the culture of guns, death and dishonor.
It's a lot to take in, and Peralta does an admirable job cramming tons of history and insight into his reportage on how the 'hood came to be. --Village Voice - Ernest Hardy
A doc with the thrust of entertainment, but the content of a thoughtfully researched book. --Variety - Robert Koehler
With Crips and Bloods: Made in America, the director Stacy Peralta manages to put a human face on a subject that tends to inspire inflamed debate. --New York Times - Manohla Dargis
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I elevated this movie to #1 when Michael Vick was signed by the Eagles. In one week: I heard two accounts from completely different lifestyles: Prissy ESPN sports talk show host Mike Greenberg declared that he had never heard of the subculture known as dog fighting until the Vick case made the news. Vick stated that dog fighting in his childhood neighborhood was so common that police would stop to see a fight and then drive away. Dog fighting was the norm. It was then when I knew I had to check out Peralta's newest movie as I'd loved the Dog Town and Z Boys documentary.
The first 25-30 minutes of the movie covers pre-1970 race riots in LA and other cities. How invisible lines created "hoods" by police who would commonly question straying pedestrians about "why don't you go back to your neighborhood?" Then abruptly, the movie takes a sharp turn when vocal black leaders like MLK, Malcom X and others are thrown in jail or murdered. Suddenly, all the icons were gone. Think of the Living Colour song: Cult of Personality - "When that leader speaks, that leader dies."
For the rest of the movie I was hooked. I couldn't grasp what was happening. The Crips and Bloods seemed to come out of nowhere. Peralta seemed to have skipped something important. But he didn't. I didn't understand how there were suddenly two gangs. I didn't understand why they were divided and bent on killing each other based on territories, red or blue bandanas, or other reasons.
Before the movie ended, I got it. Young black men without fathers, mentors or real leadership took a downward turn. Image, status and bravado became a common theme in neighborhoods where there is no hope. I will admit that I'm a Republican with strong beliefs that everybody should pull their weight and not rely on handouts. In a world where police often respond by use of strong force, there's little reason to NOT question authority. I have no solutions. The oppressed respond to violence, with violence.
Jim Brown has a couple of short appearances (he's not in the film enough in my opinion) and he is quoted by someone in the extras: "If the police have not resolved the problem in 40 years, they never will resolve the problem." It's about oppression, not the gangs themselves. Stacey says the an outtake that he wanted to make this movie because he didn't understand why there is no gang violence in suburban or upscale neighborhoods. Why are people arming themselves and having gun battles with former childhood friends in impoverished communities?
This movie is a must see for anyone even mildly afraid to drive thru certain neighborhoods or better yet, the generation of kids from the suburbs who were raised on hip hop, MTV and anything that glorified the gangsta lifestyle. In the extras, Snoop Dog and Lil Wayne each give a heartfelt, unscripted point of view that really was impressive.
Buy this dvd and watch this film...
The film traces back through history, detailing the "roots of rage", so to speak, for the black man in Los Angeles. The film is never boring, utilizing archival film clips from the past, interspersed with interviews from past gang members who are incredibly articulate and erudite. Kumasi's barely controlled ire is tempered with measured intelligent speech. I was enthralled.
The only surprise for me was the lack of mention of the influence of rap music vis a vis the gangs, although there is plenty to be had on the soundtrack throughout.
The film is based on interviews with current and former gang members, and a few dedicated and caring activists who see the kids in gangs as human beings who have an inalienable right to a decent, safe and happy life. What struck me was the eloquence of the interviewees as well as the raw pain speaking - the pain of loss, the pain of the child, the pain of the outsider. Pain that needs to be kept under the tough guy facade 'because only the strong survive'. The beauty and heart-shattering grief of women experiencing the loss of their kids, nephews and grandchildren. The raw, human power that is squandered by keeping those young people ghettoed in.
I'd be interested in seeing how the reviewers croaking about "personal responsibility" on these pages felt if they were harassed by the police every time they crossed a certain street (into a neighborhood where they were not 'supposed' to be). If they had been kept away from progress, growth, respect, education, equal opportunity by the lack of access and institutionalized neglect. I find it amazing that the film does not make you sad or make you want to help, but rather compels you to display your own disconnectedness and lack of humaneness. It is that same disconnectedness that made you vote for a guy who wasted a trillion dollars in Iraq - instead of spending it on inner city schools. It is the same lack of humaneness which makes you vote to give million dollar bonuses to fat cat bankers instead of building new highways. Or kindergartens. Or jobs. The youngsters interviewed in the film are your fellow citizen - and you don;t care. That, my friends, is despicable and morally, ethically and spiritually reprehensible.
The film is well made, with good & noble intentions while sparse on the moralizing front. It does not preach. It simply documents peoples' lives and fates through faces, sounds and images. I hope it will touch you as it touched me. And I hope things will change and those young people get to experience hope. And freedom.
Crips and Bloods: Made in America is Directed by Stacey Peralta and Narrated by Emmy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker. Produced for DVD release by Ducudrama Films in 2009, this unrated documentary is a comprehensive and emotional film that keeps on giving. This film is a historical chronicle on the development of the Crips and Bloods street gangs.
The plot of the movie is to identify the causative factors of gang activity and offers solutions to the problem using history and individuals involved in gang activity. University professors, interventionists, active gang members and community leaders discuss gang life and its impacts on individuals, families and society as a whole during in-depth personal interviews. Historical events are presented in a storytelling format supported by newspaper articles and graphic video footage. The interviews and stories are intermixed throughout the film resulting in a complete work on Crips and Bloods that leaves no topic untouched.
I think that the personal nature of the interviews coupled with the historical backdrop is one of the most interesting features of Crips and Bloods: Made in America. The viewer gets a sense of realness and humanity from the interviewees. Ex-gang members reflect on their past and discuss how and why they changed their ways. Active gang members show frustration and a desire for their lives to be different. One of the most emotional parts of the film is the interviews of family members who have been killed in gang violence. They share the stories of their loved ones and exhibit deep sorrow while explaining different coping mechanisms they use to get by on a daily basis. The way in which the interviews are presented can have the viewer heartily laughing or shedding tears.
I highly recommend this movie. Anyone interested in gangs would enjoy this movie. Law Enforcement could gain benefit from the movie in training sessions as it gives historical perspective and shows gang members as being human beings with feelings. Educators from junior high school through college could use this film for classes ranging from gang prevention/intervention to American history to Administration of Justice. Families should share this movie with their children at an age them deem appropriate as a parenting tool.
There is usage of graphic language and images of violence that some viewers may find objectionable. I think that the movie presents all of that in context and to omit such would defeat the purpose of the move and detract from the overall message. A unique feature of this project is that it is ongoing and viewers are encouraged and shown how that they can get involved in its efforts. I give Crips and Bloods: Made in America five out of five stars.