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Docurama presents

Bomb It (2007)

"You put a pen in any child's hand, and naturally they'll go to the wall. Graffiti writing started at the birth of human consciousness."- KRS-One

Stars: Cornbread, Taki 183, T-Kid 170, Revs, Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, KRS-One, Chino, Revok, Mear One, Tracy 168, Stay High 149, Cope 2, Lady Pink, Zephyr, Skuf, 2esae, Blek Le Rat, Daim, Pez, Zosen, Sixe, Pike & Nug, Falko, Faith47, Scage, Mickey, Zezao, Chaz Bojorquez, Ise, Very One, Belx2, Tribe, Tats Cru, Ron English, Stefano E. Block, Koyok, Shinzentomotel, Kid Acne, Toe, Retna, Spedo, Bete Nobrega, Lorenzo McKray
Director: Jon Reiss

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:33m:38s
Release Date: 2008-05-27
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

There is a wafer thin line between graffiti and vandalism, and interpretations likely fall back on the basic tenets of the "not in my backyard" variety.

These sprawling pop art bursts of color and expression—despite having existed in some manner since the first time a cave dweller scribbled on a wall—really took on a new life the late 1960s, and over the following decades have spread, evolved, and grown globally. That's the subject of Bomb It, a doc from filmmaker Jon Reiss, in which he and producer Tracy Wares interviewed over 200 "bombers" worldwide and shot over 400 hours of footage to try and encapsulate the movement in just 90 minutes, to attempt to show what it means to take a spray can to a barren wall.

The title refers to the act of putting art on some public surface, and those that do it are logically known as bombers. Reiss gives us a marginal history lesson upfront—augmented by some trippy animation—crediting a character named Cornbread as the original "modern" graffiti artist in 1960s Philadelphia, though I'm sure those primitive cave dwellers might think otherwise. There are interviews with the old "old school" guys, all of whom have colorful nicknames—in fact there are only a couple of people in the entire doc who actually use their real names. The history angle seems more of a jumping off point for Reiss, as from there it's globetrotting time, as we meet some of the modern day key players in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, Berlin, Barcelona, Capetown, Sao Paulo, and Tokyo.

Most of the interview subjects seem keen on following the rules and not destroying private property, instead using what see as the free public canvasses offered by trains, overpasses, and billboards. Spraying paint on someone's car is generally looked at as vandalism, whereas "bombing" a towering underwear billboard is considered a small battle in a much larger war. And while some of the bombers have grand political/artistic statements, some just seem angry at the world, and it's those few who make the whole art versus vandalism argument a little tougher to separate.

The use of public space as a canvas for guerilla art is indeed a prickly topic, and Reiss refrains from trying to wave a flag too hard in either direction. He offers a small counterbalance of concerned authorities and angry residents, though the crux of Bomb It is concerned with how radically different yet similar the movement is worldwide. While some of the bombers look at it as their right to put their art wherever they please, it's easy to understand why that argument seems just a little presumptuous. Politics, legalities, and rights aside, there are some beautiful and creative works of art on display throughout Bomb It, and the free flow of the movement strikes a chord with that part of me that still revels in revolution and anarchy.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Docurama has issued Bomb It in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The overall texture of the transfer reflects the guerilla nature of the subject matter in spots, as the filmmakers often found themselves in less than favorable conditions. There are sequences that are measurably grainer and softer than others, though within the context of urban art it seems to all fit. The more controlled interview segments and a number of shots of more expansive graffiti carry bright swatches of color that really show of the artwork well.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A pair of audio options, in either 2.0 stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The interviews and soundbites sound clear in either mix, but the 5.1 dramatically enhances the usage of background music, providing a larger, more spacious feel, as well as a substantially deeper bottom end.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back, < a href="showreview.php3?ID=9582">Air Guitar Nation, A Crude Awakening, The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill
1 Documentaries
5 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jon Reiss, Tracy Wares
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras include a commentary track from director Jon Reiss and producer Tracy Wares. Much of the content centers on additional background on the artists or locales, or offers a more detailed discussion of graffiti and its context. Reiss admits being embarrassed over his original title for the doc (which he neglects to mention), crediting Wares with coming up with the Bomb It moniker. Both admit the film was not meant to be actual history, considering writing on walls has been around for thousands of years, but instead it was to be look at the "modern manifestation" of the movement.

Behind The Scenes (13m:06s) has some revelatory input from Reiss, some of which comes from an appearance at an Estonian film festival, covering the film's origins and intent. Extended Interviews are basically longer versions of what appeared in the final cut, with expanded talk from Stefano E. Bloch (17m:07s) and KRS-One (08m:34s). The Extended Timelapse Sequences are fun, and feature sped-up coverage of work by Kid Acne: Sheffield, England (04m:43s), Ise & Koyok: Sao Paulo, Brazil (04m:38s), and Shinzentomotel: Kanagawa, Japan (05m:15s).

Filmmakers bios and the theatrical trailer, as well as a few other Docurama titles, are also included. The disc is cut into a rather light 12 chapters, and though it features no subtitle options, much of the material in the doc carries forced subs.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

Consider this Docurama release a tour of the underground art world. Filmmakers Jon Reiss and Tracy Wares traverse the globe to capture examples of some explosive and colorful art that is considered criminal or beautiful, depending on your bent. The interviews with the bombers reveal a mixture of anger and expression, but their work is often nothing short of remarkable.

Highly recommended.

Rich Rosell 2008-06-05