• "Bomb It" (Docurama Films, March 27, 2008, $26.95) is a raucous ride, an ocular odyssey, a global manifesto. This documentary tags our senses as thoroughly as the illicit graffiti the film reviews.
And as we scrutinize the work of what docuramafilms refers to as "punks, ghetto Picassos, taggers, misfits and political dissidents," we find ourselves ultimately admitting that graffiti, as controversial as it might be, is still a true art form.
The roots of this form can be traced back to prehistoric cave markings, the result of man's innate need for self-expression, a concept that fires the spirit of these "bombers" who risk arrest and injury to express themselves.
Whereas in early times, man would put dyes and stains, created from plants and rocks, into his mouth and spit it onto cave walls, today's graffiti artists use spray paint and markers. The finished images resonate with sweeping line, vivid color, intricate design and personal narrative punch: All aspects and requirements of art.
However, there is little here to recommend these taggers: These young men, and the occasional young woman, come off as nihilistic, foul-mouthed outlaws cuddling a colossal chip on their shoulders. Their attitude that it's their right to paint anything they want, anywhere they want, under the guise of freedom of expression is fallacious.
This is unfortunate, because the art they create truly is a joy to behold.
The controversy surrounding graffiti is an integral part of the film's story: from anti-tagging groups to the impact of New York City's infamous "Quality of Life" laws, which directly targeted illicit graffiti.
"Bomb It" begins with graffiti's roots in Philadelphia and New York in the 1970s. After several reunions with the first bombers of these cities, the film's vision expands, branching out to what is happening with "graff" throughout the world: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, Sao Paulo and Tokyo.
To make the story comprehensive, the film's director, Jon Reiss, interviewed roughly 200 artists, including Cornbread, Lady Pink, KRS One, Shepard Fairey, the Brazilian twin brothers Os Gemeos, Mear One, Terrible T-KID 170, Taki 183, Tats Cru, Chaz Bojorques, Blek Le Rat, Very One and many, many more. Their comments, many of them X-rated, will offend some. But if you can manage to get past the offensive speech, there are various intriguing accounts of the why, where and how of graffiti, showing the power of art to disturb while also enlighten.
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