In the tradition of films like “Man Bite Dog,” and “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon,” Malik Bader is a film that constantly has you questioning what’s reality and what’s fantasy. Is this all one big ruse? Are the filmmakers putting us on from minute one? Or is this an actual thief we’re watching? Most of all, does this make the film worth watching if we can never be sure one way or the other? “Street Thief” is one of the many films in the modern era that’s demonstrated the audience’s ability to become voyeurs. As a mass that constantly feel we have to watch people at their worst and most embarrassing, films like “Street Thief” will challenge the audience and keep us guessing.
Normally, I don’t like being conned into watching a movie I’m told is one thing and ends up being another, but “Street Thief” had me hooked from the start. Following a “professional thief” named Kaspor, Bader and crew follow the young man across the city watching him perform jobs, scout locations, interact with other criminals, and occasionally perform good deeds for his next door neighbors who can barely afford to pay for electricity. Through all of this, he ignores the cameras as best as he can, but occasionally tends to bark at them referring to them as nuisances.
The lingering question will indeed be, if you knew one way or another that “Street Thief” was or wasn’t a documentary and that Bader put us on, would you still enjoy this movie? But then, that’s the testament of excellence toward “Street Thief” in which the atmosphere is so utterly genuine, and the personas so damn electric that you’ll always be wondering to yourself if these are all actors, or actual personalities that hover around the crime community. In a world where directors challenge the conventions of documentaries (“Behind the Mask”), and or tell us we’re watching documentaries and are clearly bullshitting us (“Unknown White Male”), it’s quite refreshing for the director to outright challenge our perceptions, and ask us to choose which we prefer to think of “Street Thief” in the end.
Fantasy or Reality? Fiction or non-fiction? It’s up to us to decide in the end. “Street Thief” leaves you theorizing and debating hours after the credits roll, and I’d say fiction or not, Bader has done his job as a storyteller, he’s left us wanting more. Fiction, non-fiction, reality, fantasy, what does it matter? “Street Thief” is a compelling and rather fantastic peak into the life of a thief who is always one step ahead of the guys following him, and Bader is always one step ahead of his audience, like any other story teller.