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April 2, 2007 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Rampage

World Cinema Showcase 2007: Paramount April 1

This is the second documentary in what will be a trilogy about music and war. The first film in Gittoes’ trilogy, Soundtrack to War, saw the director traipsing around Iraq asking both locals and occupying forces about their taste in music. Rampage is the story of three brothers in the ghetto of Brown Sub, Miami. The oldest is Elliot (23), a soldier whom Gittoes had befriended on the streets of Baghdad; Marcus (20), a leader of the local gang, and Denzell (14), who like his two older brothers is an amazing rapper.

We are exposed to their lives in the ghetto, where poverty forces them to deal drugs. This means protecting their turf, which in turn leads to violence. Theirs is a world that looks nothing like contemporary hip-hop music videos. The reality created by the form of social Darwinism that is forced on this poor black community is both sad and horrifying.

The only way out is the army or rapping.

The first half of the film deals with the army through Elliot and his experiences of fighting in Iraq. After Elliot is called back to war and Marcus is killed by a hitman, the director takes Denzell out of Miami to stop him from being killed. He meets with people in the music industry in an attempt to get a recording contract. They all agree that the 14-year-old is extremely talented, but nobody will touch someone so young who sings about drugs, guns, killing and poverty. When someone expresses the reality of being at the bottom of the American dream, the establishment will sweep them under the rug.

This film makes some pretty bold statements. Life in the ghettos of America is not all that different to war torn Iraq. But Rampage also has significant weaknesses. It borders on incoherent, since the film’s two halves feel quite disconnected. This is made worse by the self-indulgence of the filmmaker putting himself in the film all too often. However, if you manage to persevere through that, it is still a very worthwhile film to watch.

GEORGE GITTOES

[ssba]

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