The concept of a gang is as old as time. The social aspect of a gang and its unison is fascinating and relateable for most people. What makes a gang a gang and how do you end up in one? We have all read, seen and heard plenty about famous gangs worldwide but we felt it was time we dug a little deeper and put together a list of documentaries of intriguing gangs and maybe get better educated on the whole phenomenon.
Streetwise is a documentary that follows several homeless youths of Seattle in 1984. The city of Seattle was known as “the most livable city” in America, director Martin Bell along with his wife and photographer Mary Ellen Mark made a point to reveal the homelessness and desperation that occurred even in this town of great reputation. Although the film highlights several different boys and girls there is one that shines throughout the entire feature. Erin Blackwell better known as Tiny, is a 14-year-old prostitute that Bell and Mark have followed throughout her life producing not only a photography book named “Tiny: Streetwise Revisited” but also a new documentary Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell that has been released this year. Streetwise is an amazing time capsule of 1984 and the fact that its characters continue to live on and we as viewers are able to get the rare satisfaction of finding out what happened after the movie ends makes it a must see documentary.
Flying Cut Sleeves
Flying Cut Sleeves is a gang docu classic. The film, released in 1993, portrays over 25 years and four generations of life in the New York City borough the Bronx. This documentary shows a remarkable perspective on life in the streets and New York’s infamous gang problem of the 1960s and 70s. More importantly, Flying Cut Sleeves traces back to the 1971 peace meeting organized by the gangs themselves. The very meeting which ultimately lead to the decrease in gang activity and restored peace within the ghetto. Because of the extraordinarily long period in which certain characters are documented we get to witness the coming of age from child to parent to role model for the next generation.
This documentary may not be a typical choice for a top 5 gang related documentaries but chose to add Stonewall Uprising to the list because the rioters that took part in this historic event may not have identified themselves as a gang in the common sense of the word, but what they did and how they united could in hindsight be compared to the way a gang will stand together. Stonewall Uprising explores the events surrounding the famous Stonewall riots of June 28 1969 in New York and is based on the book “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution”. The documentary depicts America’s social attitude towards homosexuality in the 1960s. Specifically the conditions in New York and what triggered the riot. Last year the director Roland Emmerich released a fictional film based on Stonewall’s true events. The film received a lot of criticism and was labeled as whitewash and offensive for choosing a white “cornfed” male lead and misrepresenting some of the historical facts. Our advice, if you want to know about Stonewall, watch the documentary not the movie!
This documentary follows Indian Feminist organization Gulabi Gang. The women, dressed in pink sari’s, travel far and wide to demonstrate and spread their word and demand of equality. Several members of the gang including founder Sampat Pal and one of its leaders Suman Singh are followed throughout. These women who are living in a country of extreme poverty and are faced to overcome obstacles that western feminists wouldn’t dream of being faced with to such a severe extent. Corruption, violence, tradition and fear are daily business and we as viewers are pulled into to the center of it all and confronted with these women’s daily frustrations and disappointments as well as their courage and determination.
Children Underground is one of the rawest and uncut depictions of child homelessness and poverty we have come across. The docu portrays the life of a gang of homeless children that live in a subway station in Bucharest. Sixteen-year-old Cristina is the hard-bitten leader of the kids of which some are as young as 7-years-old. The film is completely uncensored of the tragedy these children live in and has scenes in it that are hard to watch without feeling the need to cover your eyes. Drug addicted and utterly hopeless these youngsters are the product of decades of government corruption and a poverty stricken country. Director Edet Belzberg tells it like it is and does not try and romanticize their way of life nor does he give us as viewers hope that there is a remote possibility of a better future for them.
By Indiana Roma Voss