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A guerilla look at contemporary graffiti around the globe, Bomb It spans five continents to capture graffiti writers and street artists in action. From Capetown to São Paulo, New York City to Los Angeles, Barcelona to Berlin, Tokyo and beyond, the film follows an incredible journey into this controversial and subversive art form. We hear from some of the world's most famous and prolific graffiti artists-Zephyr, Cornbread, Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, Lady Pink, Robbie Conal and dozens more. Some say graffiti is more than an art form, that it's a movement or way of life. Bomb It gets to the heart of the matter with passion and a robust admiration for the form, tracing its history from ancient rock paintings to its current incarnation on the street, in galleries, and its lasting influence on popular culture in many languages. Yet graffiti has always been shrouded in controversy, and as integral to this story are anti-tagging groups and New York City's infamous "Quality of Life" laws. Artists and writers speak eloquently about the meaning and significance of public space and myriad reasons they risk incarceration and death to emblazon their tags on buildings, trains and billboards. This frenetic and passionate film from Jon Reiss, the acclaimed director of Better Living Through Circuitry, will open your eyes to the significance and lasting cultural impact of perhaps the most urban and talked-about art form in history. You will never look at public space in the same light again.
Director's Statement Collapse
What propels all of my documentaries is the transformative nature of subcultures and how people become more than they ever thought possible by sidestepping the norms of contemporary consumer culture to create a world for themselves. In the early interviews for Bomb It, I was immediately struck by the issues and contradictions brought about by this movement of outsider art. An old-school New York graffiti writer from the early 80s, Sharp, encouraged me to pursue the documentary because, while many movies had been made about graffiti over the years, no one had pursued it as a global movement. I was also struck by the notion that humankind has been compelled to write on walls for thousands of years. The very act itself addresses the eternal human quest for some form of immortality in the face of a vast universe -- some universal desire to state 'I was here' which I feel drives a good deal of human creation, not just graffiti. The same weekend I interviewed Sharp, a young writer, 2EASE, took me out on my first bombing raid which immediately reminded me of my days with Survival Research Laboratories when we would 'liberate' industrial equipment to create fantastic anthropomorphic robots for street theater. I've always been fascinated by the relationship between artists and criminals. This dichotomy of art and crime presented to me by Sharp on the one hand, who now does mainstream gallery shows, and 2EASE on the other hand, who could care less about art, hooked me. Both operate outside the bounds of 'normal' society. Both are rule breakers almost by definition. But with graffiti, the participants need to be criminals in order to do their art. Yet many, if not most, of the people we interviewed do not even consider themselves artists -- they consider themselves writers. Still others admit that they are unrepentant vandals who do their work for fame. It was important for me, however infatuated I had become with the movement, to showcase as many sides to the story of graffiti as possible. That meant representing this more hard-core side of the culture while also representing those who find graffiti offensive and are fighting to keep it in check. We went to great efforts to connect with government officials and police in every city we went to. As we traveled the world, we quickly discovered that there is a worldwide battle over public space. The 'quality of life laws' and the broken windows theory that support those laws have spread from New York City to Europe and to every other corner of the earth. This controversy brings up some very essential questions: What is the nature of art? Who determines what is, and what is not, art? Who controls freedom of speech? Who controls public space? Why are some manifestations of public space that are offensive to many people (billboards, strip malls) sanctioned while others are criminalized? Many writers feel that they are beautifying an ugly urban environment that is increasingly out of anyone's control. I was also amazed by the differences that we found between cities and their approach to street art. While on the surface, much of the world seems overwhelmed by the New York City 'wild style', we found that there is not only a great range of styles but also different approaches and attitudes about graffiti that vary from city to city.
Film Information Collapse
[BOMBI] | 2007 | 93 | Documentary Feature
Directed by: Jon Reiss
Foreign Title: (Bomb It)
Language: English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish
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About the Director(s)Collapse
Award-winning filmmaker JON REISS began making documentaries during the early days of the San Francisco punk rock scene, as a member of the collective Target Video, and went on to make five films with the radical performance art group Survival Research Laboratories. Since then he has directed groundbreaking music videos (many of which were banned by MTV) for bands such as Nine Inch Nails, The Black Crowes, Danzig, Slayer and the Kottonmouth Kings. His short films have screened at festivals throughout the world, as did his feature film debut, Cleopatra's Second Husband, which won Best First Feature at Cinequest in 1998. His documentary Better Living Through Circuitry explored electronic music-driven rave culture. Reiss received his MFA from UCLA Film School and currently teaches at CalArts.