DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Shocking Documentary Bemoans Skyrocketing Homicide Rate in Baton Rouge
Looks like Baton Rouge has really been living up to its name lately, which is French for “bloody stick,” although “bloody bullets” might be more apropos nowadays. For the Louisiana capital city’s homicide rate has skyrocketed in recent times, leading a local official to explain that the coroner had to hire a couple of new examiners in order to “get the bodies off the street faster.”
Not surprisingly, most of the victims as well as the perpetrators of this senseless violence have been young black males, a fact which inspired gang member-turned-filmmaker Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed to make a movie about the tragic situation in his hometown. The upshot of that effort is To Live & Die in Amerikkka , one of the most shocking, graphic, and heartbreaking, in your face documentaries you could ever hope to see.
The “KKK” in the Amerikkka in the title refers not to the Ku Klux Klan but to the phenomenon of what Reed calls “Kids Killing Kids,” and for the past couple years, the intrepid director has been taking his camera to fresh crime scenes and also to funerals to capture the physical and emotional consequences of the escalation of gang warfare.
Thus, the viewer is treated to the sight of everything ranging from blinded, paralyzed and traumatized gunshot victims, to corpses in coffins or simply lying in pools of blood on the pavement. Then, there are also the funerals filled with friends and relatives wracked with grief, guilt or both.
“What we’re witnessing is the total decimation of the black family,” Reed opines, and it’s hard to argue with him based on what’s simultaneously being displayed onscreen. And he’s smart enough to observe that this unfortunate state of affairs is not limited to Baton Rouge, which is reflected in his comment that, “Unconscious hate for one another is vividly evident in black communities all across America.”
Reed is not the only person weighing-in, here, for he interviewed a number of celebs on the subject, including Tavis Smiley, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, and Dr. Rani Whitfield, MD, aka Tha Hip-Hop Doc. Tavis points out how the link of poverty and crime is rarely discussed in polite society, while Dick Gregory offers that anger makes one violent.
Nonetheless, the most telling insights seemed to be made repeatedly by Reed who indicts rap videos for inspiring children to become gangsters by glorifying violence and misogyny. He’s willing to ask the tough questions, too, such as, “Does gangsta rap music inspire one to kill?” and “Why are our children out of their minds?”
A sobering reminder of the urgent African-American agenda coming courtesy of a reformed thug who has rededicated his life to a most righteous path.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 56 minutes
Studio: We Shoot First
Monday, April 12, 2010
DVD Review by Kam Williams