Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.

film Home > Movie Reviews

Film Clips

Style Wars

Style Wars

Director:Tony Silver, Harry Chalfant
Screen Writer:Tony Silver, Harry Chalfant

At the Creative Alliance at the Patterson Sept. 22 at 8 p.m.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 9/22/2004

Before “skateboarding is not a crime” sloganeering became suburban youth solidarity, a smattering of young men in New York were breaking the law doing their own bad-meaning-good thing, and the law was striking back. In the late 1970s, young African-Americans, whites, and Puerto Ricans were going around spray-painting their nicknames on subway cars—called “bombing”—driving then-Mayor Ed Koch up the wall. Originally airing in 1983 on PBS, Style Wars is the result of director Tony Silver and his producing partner Harry Chalfant following graffiti artists (“writers”) around as they talked about and plied their art, pitted against various other colorful New Yorkers who branded the art vandalism. The journey led the filmmakers into a youth street culture of graf writers, dancers (B-boys), DJs, and MCs—the proverbial four elements of hip-hop, viewed here still with its baby teeth, though it's already got plenty of bite. Koch and the Metropolitan Transit Authority eventually won out with their guard dogs, concertina-wired rows of fences surrounding the train yards, graffiti-proof paint, and policies that don’t permit bombed trains to run. But Wars reveals the origins of a culture that blew up into styles that traveled out of the subways and across the country.

E-mail Bret McCabe

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter