BOOTLEG FILES 628: “The Jungle” (1967 documentary made by a Philadelphia street gang).
LAST SEEN: On YouTube.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Murky rights issue.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It’s possible.
Movies about street gangs rarely resonate with any degree of honesty, if only because filmmakers have a tendency to sanitize or glamorize the gangs with the hope that something good can be found in their bad boy behavior. However, there was one strange little film that attempted to get a street level view of gang behavior, and what made it so unusual was having real gang members on both sides of the camera.
Among New York City’s neighborhoods, Harlem has seen the most dramatic highs and harrowing lows: it was a cultural epicenter during the 1920s and a beacon for African-Americans seeking an escape from the Jim Crow South, but economic deprivations during the Great Depression and acute social inequalities in the post-World War II years saw the community’s standard of living rapidly decline.
Afro Promo” is a textured and rich compendium of Black Cinema trailers that speaks more of the depictions of African Americans on film than any documentary can really try to. There are no real interviews here, just a collection of trailers involving black actors, or starring an all African American cast. And as you’d expect we see the progression from blacks with white lips and bulging eyes, to lecherous and despicable heathens, to blaxploitation films where they were more empowered and able to decide how they wanted to be seen (they settled on “Boss Nigger”?). And every now and then we see the great Sidney Poitier, and Richard Pryor, James Earl Jones, and Pam Grier respectively.