Why is there so much violence in south L.A.? What are the historical roots of the Bloods and Crips? Stacy Peralta's documentary Made in America employs hip-hop beats and music-video aesthetics (quick edits, slick cinematography, artful use of still photography) to answer those twined questions. With narration by Forest Whitaker, Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants) turns his cameras on former and current gang members who outline the origins of gangs (one starting point: the once-racist policies of the Boy Scouts, which forced young black males to form makeshift youth groups of their own), their evolution, their role in the civil rights movement of the '60s, and the American government's hand in turning Bloods and Crips from community activists into community scourge. It's a lot to take in, and Peralta does an admirable job cramming tons of history and insight into his reportage on how the " 'hood" came to be. Made in America is fueled by his palpable frustration and unapologetic lefty sympathizing, which is the film's strength. The film's failure to really address the role of economic policies and job loss is a glaring weakness, however, underscoring not only a crucial information deficit but also Peralta's real-life remove from his own subject matter. Those unfamiliar with the subject matter should use Made in America as the gateway film to check out the superior All Power to the People and Bastards of the Party. The latter, directed by former Blood Cle "Bone" Sloan, is the raw, underground joint to Peralta's pop opus.
Batman Davis, part of L.A.s early gang history.
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., March 13–Thurs., March 19. Not rated. 92 minutes.