Wednesday, November 11, 2009
This documentary was created sometime around 1987 and aired on channel 4. It is a follow up of sorts to the 1984 BBC documentary 'Beat This' which served as an outsiders view of Hip Hop as a new New York sub-cultural phenomenon. Here Director Dick Fontaine returns to focus on the UK adoption of this Hip Hop culture and some of the conflicts created therein. To achieve this, the production chose to focus on Graffiti Art, no doubt because this element had the biggest conflict and issues to explore with its high presence, intrusion and illegality.
In those days Break dancing took centre stage in the UK but wouldn't have provided nearly as interesting debates to explore. After providing such a strong argumentative presence in 'Beat This', Brim Fuentes (TAT) is brought over to the UK as a sort of cultural ambassador of New York graffiti in a string of workshops and informal seminars. He is also put squarely in front of international main stream media's scrutiny. To which they responded in a manner of ways that at best was condescending and at worst was a down right personal attack for being a catalyst to the vandalising of Britain's culture and heritage. From here the documentary alludes to the social implications of ethnicity and poverty, and their relationship with the Hip Hop subculture.
This is where Goldie (of later Drum n Bass fame) as one of the UK premier graffiti artists makes a strong presence in his most notable early television appearance. It's his relationship and 'parallels' with Brim that really play out the rest of the documentary as the two exchange visits to each others home environments in Wolverhampton and the Bronx respectively. The film incidentally captures some of the earliest footage of significant UK protagonists such as Goldie and a pre Massive Attack 3D (not his finest hour here), as well as a noticeably limited Mode 2 and the Chrome Angels appearance at the Birmingham wall commission. However it is debatable that the producers pushed their own inclinations towards ethnicity and Graffiti here, with their focus on Goldie and Brim. It makes for interesting viewing but considering the well documented fact that the culture transcended ethnic barriers in New York and beyond, it can be held up as a particular flaw.
Posted by AJPEE at 5:35 pm