Director Stacy Peralta saw his 2001 doc Dogtown and Z-Boys turned into the 2005 narrative Lords of Dogtown. Will the same fate greet Crips and Bloods: Made in America? This gripping film does much to contextualize the origins of Los Angeles gangs within the city's African American history, and Peralta makes good use of archival footage and photographs to tell the story.
At times, though, the 105-minute Crips and Bloods seems overwhelmed by the sheer amount of background material, which could fill a Ken Burns-style miniseries. Peralta couldn't leave out the Watts riots, or the Rodney King riots, or the Black Panthers, or racial profiling, or the origins of south L.A.'s housing projects, or the economic history of black workers, or any number of topics that nudge the conversation toward the city's gangster groups.
When Crips and Bloods finally gets there, it states the obvious: gangs are destructive. They also agree that for many kids, gangs offer the protection and sense of family their lives are otherwise lacking. Obviously this isn't the kind of movie that's gonna glorify gangs, though I wish there'd been more discussion about how pop culture romanticizes gang membership (see: 1991's Boyz n the Hood, N.W.A., etc.), making it attractive to suburban kids and curious filmmakers alike.
CRIPS AND BLOODS: MADE IN AMERICA opens Fri/20 at the Roxie. See Rep Clock.