Bomb It!: The Global Graffiti Documentary

Posted: July 13, 2008 in Film Reviews
Tags: , ,

To bomb is to write is to graffiti.

Bomb It!: The Global Graffiti Documentary traveled the world to 12 cities on five continents to explore the graffiti culture.

Starting with graffiti’s roots in New York and Philadelphia, Bomb It explores the graff cultures in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, São Paulo, and Tokyo, before finishing off in Los Angeles. The film features original and guerilla footage with artists around the world who have taken the form and applied it to their particular cultural and social conditions, from Latin America where graffiti has been adapted into the mural tradition, to Japan where anime inspired rakugaki juxtaposes with formal calligraphy and conformist societal norms, to Europe where a dadaist/surrealist tradition produces deliberately confrontational prankstering.

Bomb It traces graffiti’s roots from pre-linguistic cave markings to its notorious explosion in New York City during the 70’s and 80’s, paralleling the rise of hip hop culture. It then follows its evolution and re-invention around the world to its current, pervasive presence and co-option by advertising firms and clothing designers. Bomber’s self-promotion on the sides of trains is even suggested to be prophetic, as commercial products are now similarly advertised in their place.

Many bombers equate applying graffiti to war, relating themselves to soldiers as they embark on dangerous night missions of law breaking (because graffiti is a crime). One writer even calls it “typographic terrorism” Anti-tagging groups call graffiti a “gateway crime” and advocate harsher penalties. The documentary tells both sides of the story, interviewing old school legends and current favorites such as Taki 183, Cornbread, Stay High 149, T-Kid, Cope 2, Zephyr, Revs, Os Gemeos, KET, Chino, Shepard Fairey, Revok, and Mear One, as well as representatives from anti-tagging groups, such as T.A.G. (Totally Against Graffiti) and outspoken graffiti critic NYC councilman Peter Vallone Jr.

The main theme of the film is pubic space: who owns it? If billboards bombard people with unsolicited messages, why can’t graffiti artists do the same? Besides, most writers are adamant about not defacing personal property.

Award-winning director Jon Reiss cut 550 hours of footage to a 90-minute film. The remainder of the footage will be used to create six upcoming DVDs, focusing on different cities. “Graffiti’s the ultimate outsider art,” says Reiss.

“There are worse things in the world.”

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