Thursday, May 1, 2008

slept on films (part 1)

"80 Blocks from Tiffany's" is a documentary about the Savage Skulls and Savage Nomads gangs in the Bronx in the late 70's. It is such an important piece of nyc street culture that goes largely unrecognized in the cannon of films about the youth experience in NYC. We've all seen Style Wars, Beat Street and Wildstyle like 500 times, but this kind of sets the stage for all that.

It's also interesting because it catches the gangs at the tail end of their prominence in the city. In the late 60's and early 70's there were an estimated 70,000 gang members in the 5 boroughs. There were a lot of factors that lead to their decline, not the least of which being the indrduction of the crack game, which transformed the gangs what were until that point basically neighborhood "social clubs", to groups that existed solely for financial gain. We posted the first part of the film here, you can youtube the rest if you're interested.

And if you're intot hat sort of thing, there is also a really interesting book about post WW2 youth gang culture called "Vampires, Dragons and Egyptian Kings", which starts out by telling the story of Salvador Agron, "The Capeman", on whom the short-lived but recenty ressurected Paul Simon Musical was based.

Oh and one more thing. I always thought this was an amazing companion piece to the films we grew up watching. "Streetwise" is a film by Martin Bell that documents a group of runaway kids in the early 80's in Seattle's Tenderloin district. Its fascinating to see what american street kids were up to 3000 miles from where I was when I was growing up. It is also simply a beautiful film, both visually and in the way they handle the content. Again, this is just the first part...

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