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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Welcome to Durham

Posted on Thu, Jan 25, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Welcome to Durham
Studio: Defend Films
Rated: NOT RATED
Website: www.welcometodurhamusa.com/
Release Date: 2007-01-23
Director: Christopher "Play" Martin
WorkNameSort: Welcome to Durham
Christopher 'Playâ?� Martin of Kid 'n Play fame explores, in this harrowing hip-hopumentary, the slow decay ' thanks to an explosion of gang activity ' of a once-prosperous, black-owned community in North Carolina. As denizens of a similarly puzzled Orlando are still licking wounds from the city's deadliest year, it's easy to relate to the frustrating lack of answers to an unsolvable, nearly existential problem: violent crime. Martin gets the usual fall guys out of the way quickly ' drugs, crooked cops, migrating gangstas, gentrification ' then hits the ground floor where compartmentalization is only a coping technique, not public policy. All the residents' excuses are directly related to their own interests: A white deputy pulls a black kid off the street and forces him to show his gang tattoo to the camera, then blames Los Angeles for sending these people to him; the city judge sees a broken justice system; the pastor believes church is the answer; even older gangsters shake their heads at the young'uns ' at least they did it for money back in the day, not for a vague concept of respect. The only players without a theory are the gangbangers themselves, starkly painted here as soldiers without a general, lost in the fog of a war for survival. We see a 'Bloodâ?� (it's unclear whether these pseudo-offshoot gangs would even be acknowledged in L.A. or New York) who lost his sight to buckshot. Martin visits an upper-class black family whose son was killed because his gang member cousin visited to congratulate him on his college graduation. There are buckets of hope, however, in the community efforts that have sprung up in response, an overwhelming surge of goodwill and togetherness hoping to convert, not kill off, their abandoned sons. The film is shot digitally on a minimal budget, and Martin gets open access, from City Hall to the city morgue. While Durham sometimes loses its narrative drive in favor of a soapbox stand for too many of its subjects desperate to tell their tales, it's admirable for its open-eyed and unwavering glare in the face of a chaos that could easily be ' and in the case of Orange County, probably is ' our own backyard.

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