Thursday, May 14, 2009

Crips and Bloods: Made in America DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: L.A. Gang Wars Documentary Comes to DVD

How many young lives would you guess have been claimed in gang-related warfare in Los Angeles over the past four decades? 100? 200? 500? Try 15,000 and counting. What makes a poor kid pick up a gun and shoot another poor kid for something as seemingly meaningless as a pair of sneakers or for passing through his neighborhood?
To get at the roots of such profound dysfunction, you really have dig rather deeply, as does director Stacy Peralta in Crips and Bloods: Made in America. Narrated by Forest Whitaker, the film opens with actual footage of gang-bangers being blown away in drive-bys and being left lying dead in the street. Apparently, some of these demented killers are so proud of their slayings that they get a kick out of filming their dirty work so they can watch it later at their leisure.
Such sensational and sobering moments aside, the picture more importantly offers a serious discussion of exactly how the gangs in L.A. came to be. Apparently, it is not unusual for a kid from the ‘hood to go from the cradle to the grave without ever seeing the suburbs, the ocean at Malibu, the mansions in Beverly Hills, or other alternatives to the thug life.
According to former gang member Ron Wilkins, the Crips and the Bloods were originally formed as benign, street-front fraternities which offered rudderless youngsters a sense of status, family, power and acceptance in a world which was showing them little in the way of love. But they gradually morphed into felonious associations, since there weren’t many legal outlets for all that unbridled testosterone.
The crack epidemic of the Eighties didn’t help matters much, nor did the dwindling manufacturing base or an educational system way too willing to graduate functional illiterates. As the curtain comes down on this daunting documentary, expect to well up while watching emotional tableaus of grieving mothers burying their babies at funerals or simply staring blankly into the camera with tears streaming down their pained faces.
The tragic side of the thug lifestyle that they never show in gangsta videos.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: New Video Group
DVD Extras: “The Making of” featurette, deleted scenes and interviews with hip-hop artists Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne.

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