In Dame Hooker's DVD doc Land of the Homicide, commentators become victims of the violence they describe
Current TV on HBO showed me a lot about how to put it in a format."
Indeed, he nailed the format so well that Current TV licensed some of his footage and hired him and Epps to make content for the program's Web site, which proved to be the genesis of the Land of the Homicide project.
"We did a pod, a little five-minute segment for Current TV," Hooker says. "It was called Popped in Oakland. I went around to my friends and was like, tell me how you got shot, and they was showing their wounds. HBO wanted me to extend it, and I was doing that already."
Some of the wounds are pretty grisly. One man pulls up a sleeve to display an arm that got sprayed with an AK. The arm is functional but it looks like a tree root, all twisted and gnarled, a permanent symbol of the gun problem in Oakland which frequently leads the nation in homicides not to say the entire country. Hooker himself hasn't been immune to the violence. He shows me some of his own wounds.
"You got to know how to maneuver around here," he says grimly. "You can get shot just by looking at someone wrong. I got shot five times. Somebody thought I looked at them funny. I didn't have no money on me or nothing."
As Hooker's own story suggests, Oakland's gun violence often has a random quality to it. People get shot, sometimes killed, by mistake, in addition to intended victims like Pretty Black. One of the more notorious accidental murders was Jesse "Plan Bee" Hall, founder of the classic 1990s crew Hobo Junction, who was shot in 1992 while sitting next to the intended target. Among the interviewees are Plan Bee's parents, his sister, and his younger brother, Bobby "Blu-Nose" Hall, as Hooker provides an unflinching look at the family's devastation and grief. Before the end of the film, however, he winds up returning to the Hall residence as Blu-Nose himself is murdered, seemingly, like his brother, a random target.
"I got a large family. None of my family members have passed away like that," Hooker says. "Except my first cousin we was real close and my uncle, [and] two uncles, on my mother's side. All the rest have been friends, but my friends be like my family."
Ordinarily, Blu-Nose's death would raise a question like what are the odds of someone speaking on camera about gun violence being killed by gun violence shortly afterward? But this being Oakland, the question is: what are the odds of this occurring three times in quick succession? Because this is exactly what happens with Land of the Homicide, separating it from similarly-themed hood documentaries. Another of the main interviewees, a rapper from the East Oakland's 70s named Hennessey who had many previous wounds to display, is also murdered. Though I hadn't heard his music, I'd already begun to hear Hennessey's name here and there; he'd just signed to Thizz for his first major project shortly before his death, and the contrast between his on-camera gregariousness and the extremely dapper corpse we see at his funeral makes a more emphatic argument against the legality of guns than any commentary could.
Pretty Black is the third victim. Although he didn't have prior wounds himself, Black bumped into Hooker during the filming and agreed to lend his perspective as someone who knew the street life all too well.
"I was going around getting their opinion about the stuff," Hooker recalls. "Most of them was trying to help people, trying to get their hood right. I don't know if it was a curse doing the DVD or what, but they all died back to back. It was supposed to be about the lives taken in Oakland, but it turned out to be the people that was interviewed."
I don't think there's a word for Hooker's experience here.