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Monday, January 23, 2006

Blacus Ninjah interviews REV. Rivers

After the last story, I thought I should also post a still from the doc that has Blacus Ninjah stopping Rev. Eugene Rivers as he is leaving Driftwood Community Centre in Jane-Finch.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

a Toronto miracle?

Rev. Eugene Rivers is widely credited with what many have termed "The Boston Miracle." Like what Toronto is feeling today, Boston had a surge in gun violence in the early nineties. Rev. Rivers helped create a strategy to reduce gun violence in Boston that saw a peak of 152 murders in 1991 drop to just 31 a few years later. So what do community leaders look to do now that gun crime in Toronto has reached "crisis" numbers - place a call to the good Reverend. So after we pony up a fee of $25,000 does Rev. Rivers drop everything and make an emergency stop in the T-dot. (authors note: I'm not suggesting that Rev. Rivers wasn't deserving of the twenty-five grand, quite the contrary. After seeing mass media exposure Rev. Rivers brought to the cause and the way he was hustled around the city, in the end, his price seemed cheap.) There was no rest for the guy. This dude has to be pushing 60 and they had him addressing city hall, walking the hoods' looking for gang-bangers, and sermonizing at a local Church. By the last day when the Toronto Rap Project finally caught up with him in Jane-Finch - his voice was almost shot. It proved tougher then first thought getting Rev. Rivers on camera sharing his feelings about the whole rap-violence debate. It wasn't that the Reverend didn't want to talk. Believe me, this was a man who was never a loss for words. It was that they had so many speaking engagements to drag him to. And the mainstream media seemed to always be following right behind. So it was a great surprise when one of the star subjects of the Toronto Rap Project - emcee Blacus Ninjah called late one night to tell me that he was set to meet Rev. Rivers early in the morning as Rivers was coming to Jane-Finch. I knew this was going to be the best chance for an interview as the mainstream press were not informed about the Reverend's visit to Driftwood Community Center. Rev. Rivers was still being rushed about with his Toronto publicist telling me he wouldn't be able to stop and answer my questions. But this time, I wasn't taking "no" for an answer and figured the best way to get the Reverend answering a question was not for me to ask it -- but Blacus Ninjah. So after Rev. Rivers briefly addressed the Jane-Finch community and was being whisked away to his next appearance, Blacus stopped Rivers mid-flight and got the Reverend talking about gansta rap, 50 Cent, and the breakdown of the nuclear family. All perfect stuff for the documentary. And all in about two minutes under the watchful eye of our cameras.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hustle & Flow

I watched for the second time tonight, Hustle & Flow. I can now say conclusively that it's one of the best movies I have ever seen dealing with the rap game. Almost a masterpiece (I had some issues with the ending). In a world that urban based movies have become almost parodies of themselves and crap like 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' is supposed to represent the urban genre - it's amazing to see a moving so dripping in realism, sweat, and a true interpretation of the black experience in America. But it's even more than that. Hustle & Flow trancends the rap genre and becomes a story so much more universial. It's about telling "your" story creatively. In the end, thats probably what I appreciated most. Terrence Howard turns in a incredible portrayal of a pimp turned rapper that you will root for (and feel sorry for) in the end. I read that Howard was bitchin' that he only made acting scale of something like $25,000 for the Hustle role and his other great 2005 acting turn in Crash. But after these performances and buzz it won't be long before he's pulling down Jamie Foxx type numbers. Another shout-out has to go to Ludacris, who's proving he can flat out act as when he's on-screen the movie sizzles (like Howard, also following up a great role from Crash.) I know every rapper seems to think he can act, and after painfully sitting through almost anything Dre, 50 Cent, and even to some extent Snoop attempts to act in - Ludacris is seeming the real deal. To Mr. John Singleton - a director I once so admired and respected, you have gained a measure of respect back in my books, after the embarrassment that was Four Brothers, it's nice to see you haven't totally lost your sense of whats real as you fought to bring Hustle & Flow to the big screen. To the twenty studios that passed on financing a film like Hustle & Flow, but willingly write checks to bring something like "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" to audiences - your place in hell is secured.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A loss of innocence?

More then a week later its interesting to see Toronto's boxing day shooting still the talk of the news. It's certain to become the watershed crime event of 2005. But why has this one touched such a nerve? I can't deny that this one even feels different to me. I happened to walk by the exact scene of the shooting a mere hour before it went down - I was just up the street in HMV on Yonge when the shots rang out. My first thoughts leaving the store and seeing what was happening - was to run the fuck home and get my camera. Not sure how this would weave into my documentary story, but I knew street visuals this good don't pop up too often. It probably wasn't till a few days later while editing The Toronto Rap Project when it hit me -- has one of the core themes of the doc changed? I went into making the documentary because I felt Toronto was getting a bad rap, that the media was over-sensationalizing the gun crime in the city and giving everybody the sense they were not safe anymore. At that time, I certainly felt very safe in the city. It's probably wrong to say it -- but maybe I felt detached from the gun violence because it wasn't happening in my neighborhood - but in hoods' that felt worlds away to me. It's ironic that a few times during filming the documentary I mention "not feeling the need to dawn my bulletproof vest." After boxing day, I'm not so sure anymore.