Informative Documentaries

In the Communist Manifesto Marx explains how in a Capitalist society these systems of social classes are inevitable, he goes on further to explain that once a Capitalist society is started, without a revolution it can’t be stopped because everyone is dependent on it. The revolution could either be violent or non-violent but in the case of solving gang violence we need more of a revolution in society, a revolution in thought. With these systems of social classes being inevitable it seems clear that the only way to end gang violence would be to gain as much support as possible for the cause. Informing as many people as possible and making more documentaries similar to the low budget videos could help greatly in bringing upon this revolution in our society.

Generally, low budget gang documentaries are actually more accurate and truthful than mainstream ones because they show the gang members for who they really are and allow the gang members to create their own perception.   Independent documentaries are also more accurate by going more in depth into the lives of the gang members than you would normally see. In one documentary they interviewed a gang member at his daughter’s birthday party, he wasn't throwing up gang signs or being violent, but simply enjoying a day with his family. If more documentaries showed you the human side of gang members, people would be able to relate to gang members and it could influence more people to try to help them out of their situation. In gangland and some other mainstream documentaries, the show host suggests that gangs on are the rise and compare them to armies in some cases, saying such things implicates that these gangs are unstoppable violent criminals. With these implications and displays of violent imagery the viewers are brainwashed in some way, rendering them incapable of understanding that they are born into a system in which you can’t escape gangs.


Baron Davis, a guard in the NBA has the same idea about raising awareness and support against gang violence. He grew up South Central and was raised in a household in which many of his family members were involved in gangs and drugs. He used basketball as his escape from gang life; it not only got him through school but eventually into the NBA. Because of his relations with gangs in his childhood he wanted to put his money towards something that could create social change and help the people who are stuck in the same situation that he was born into. He teamed up with Stacy Peralta to make a 102-minute documentary called Made in America that not only traces the emergence of the Crips and Blood gangs but also explores the possible solutions to gang violence. Because this subject’s closeness to Davis’ heart this documentary is quite influential, he avoided being “preachy” while also being very informative. It allows a viewer who knows little about gangs to gain a true understanding of gang culture and its origins.

It differs from mainstream documentaries because instead of focusing on the violence and drugs aspect of gangs it presents “the trials and tribulations, the positives and negatives, of the black community. It’s rise and fall.” Made in America wasn’t made for entertainment but more on informing the masses and providing possible solutions to a growing issue. This topic gets pushed aside too easily in our society and something needs to be done before it gets too late. Davis said, “People want their voices heard. As far as gang violence goes, they want an end to it.” Too often the only attempted solution is an increase in the police force in gang-infested neighborhoods. This can only slow down the growth of gangs or push them into other areas but can never fully stop gang violence. This isn’t a problem that you can just throw money at and hope it goes away, social change in necessary if Americans want to see an end to gang violence, and that is what Baron Davis is aiming for. Producers of mainstream documentaries have little interest in social change and aim their documentaries at entertainment for economic benefits. Documentaries such as Made in America put a spin on the common perception of gang violence and bring up ideas and notions that many people haven’t seen. Paralta makes an interesting point when he questions what the government would do if it was white teenagers arming themselves, and if our a nation react differently. His theory is that “Our government would not allow such a thing to ever take hold in white America, as it would cause too much of a blight on our country’s image.” One line that I found compelling from a gang member interview was “we are whiteness to Columbine everyday.” There is violence for gang members on a regular basis and have to be ready for a potential shootout at any time. When you hear about a shootout at a school or some other public area it is made out to be a catastrophe in the media but when a gang member dies in a drive by it is made out only to be an increase in gang violence. Even though the gang member’s life was equally important in the eyes of his family and friends, little if any remorse is shown by society. Paralta’s theory on the government with the gang member’s perception of gang violence exposes a big flaw in our society. Two white children shoot up their school and it cause a national epidemic of fear but when a young African Americans are killed in a drive by downtown, no one is surprised.

Another documentary that does a good job of informing people about the problem instead of entertaining them by skewing information is Warrior Boyz. It takes place in Canada and focuses on the story of three South Asian men. I feel as though this approach to a gang documentary is very eye opening because not many people would expect Asian gang members in Canada. One of the men was a vetran gang member who now works at a high school convincing teenagers to not chose the same path that he did. The other person they followed as a teenager who had to transfer schools because of his gang intereactions but was turing his life around. The last person they followed was another teenager but this one had recently been kicked out of his school and home and thought gang life was his only option. The documentary goes a step further than most by showing three different perspectives of gangs and discussing possible solutions to gang violence. The violence has moved out of the cities and into smaller suburban towns all over the United States and it is important to inform people on the causes of this movement. It is very hard to get gangs out of a town once they grow so informing as many people as possible could be a great way to prevent their spread.

Work Cited