The District ( ©1990 )

20 Mar

film stock: 16 mm, B&W Kodak Tri-X reversal (400 ISO). No negative.
camera: Bell and Howell 200 EE (crank; 20 seconds per shot).
16mm magazine.
Lens: B&H Super Comat 25mm f: 1.9
lights: natural
no sync sound
label: documentary/essay

Negative Criticism: no solutions offered, portrays Washington D.C. in negative manner, focuses on social ills/homelessness/drug epidemic rather than positives, shaky hand-held shots, no sync-sound, looks more like a video for Public Enemy than short film.

Final Grade: B (minus).

audio only: someone is flipping TV channels through local news broadcasts; we hear several (real) network anchors describe gang shootings, crack-addicted, homeless victims, arrests, homicides…highest per capita crimes in the United States.
fade in:
camera moves across a close-up map of Washington D.C. while audio of local news still rolls.
camera moves down the Anacostia River.
camera moves throughout Southeast, Florida Avenue, 14th St. and W.
camera moves down New York Avenue.
across and around film title on map: “The District”
audio: newscasters are suddenly cut by extremely loud static, then…Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrodome” (plays throughout; time: 5:49)
cut to:
indifferent, de-sensitized man sitting cross-legged in front of television, flipping channels through local b-roll of crime scenes.
man is early 20s, sports a shaved head and small mohawk, black flag t-shirt, jeans, bare feet.
as he hits the remote we
cut to:
street footage of Washington D.C.
prostitutes hooking Johns, an arrest at a row house on NY Ave., two police cars speeding out of an alleyway,
cut to:
tracking shot of 14th St., gang members flashing signs, a fight,
cut to:
close-up of man hitting remote button,
cut to:
b-roll footage on newscast: a gurney being loaded into an ambulance, crime scene investigators milling about, distraught bystanders,
cut to:
close-up of man’s desensitized face then,
cut to:
close-up of man’s eyes static then…a quick dart to,
street footage of D.C.: sequence of homeless people sleeping in parks, near museums, U.S. Capitol and White House in background, a fight between two homeless men (swinging bags and spitting on one another)
cut to:
b-roll footage of Mayor Marion Barry’s FBI surveillance tape and arrest.
cut to:
medium tracking shot of man watching b-roll of homicide on local newscast…

–You offer no solutions, she says.
I think: there are none. If there were any, the government or someone would have instituted them. Something would have been done.
I think: she is my professor, a respected filmmaker herself with tenure at a prestigious school; she has worked with Julie Dash, Spike Lee, John Singleton, Melvin Van Peebles, his son Mario… but…she is a full time resident of Washington D.C. She lives downtown. In a good area. She is loyal to the city.
I think: I am a white kid from P.G. County; one of the worst, most crime-ridden areas in the United States. What do I know? I just go out and shoot what’s around. There is no comment on what I see, I just see.
–You offer no solutions.
I don’t. I don’t have any. Except to try to get the fuck out of here someday. Go somewhere. Make films. Write them. Shoot them.
The rest of the kids in the class like it. Kids nothing. Young men. And a young woman. She will go on to be a famous TV sportscaster/journalist and work first for ABC/ESPN, and then for CBS. She will cover NFL games on Sundays. Another young man in the class is the drummer in a band called Velocity Girl. They will move to moderate independent success and release 5 albums. This is before the “indie age” and so they’ll fade out by the time the 21st Century comes along with its digital files swap craze.
The kids like it. They call it the new Taxi Driver. There are no solutions. Not at the end of the 80s in Washington D.C. Not from a white kid living in one of the worst areas in the country.

End scene:
a montage of:
close-ups of various hands turning off television sets; turning off and tuning out; various hands: men, women, black, white…
de-sensitized to the violence…
followed by MS of man turning off his TV set; he hits the remote and audio and we….
cut to:
hold for a second and only audio over black:
part of Martin Luther King speech:
“Yet our best trained, best educated, best equipped, best prepared troops refuse to fight! Matter of fact, it’s safe to say that they would rather switch than fight!”

This thing sits in a can in the basement of a house in Seabrook, Maryland. It hasn’t been opened in almost seventeen years. One day, it’ll make good kindling for a fire, despite advancements made in the 1920s in fire-retardant emulsion. I’ll see to that.


One Response to “The District ( ©1990 )”


  1. Media Districts Entertainment Blog » The District (a short film by AMP, ©1990) - 20/03/2008

    […] (S)wine created an interesting post today on The District (a short film by AMP, ©1990)Here’s a short outline […]

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