Ghetto violence as realist, journalistic entertainment has been a media staple for a generation now, since that Bush I-era perfect storm of N.W.A., Boyz in the Hood and the Rodney King beating. But just as two of thug life culture’s most successful practitioners, Sean (P. Diddy) Combs and Jay-Z (nee Shawn Carter), have begun to renounce their embrace of the bad life, a locally-produced documentary about gang violence shows that poverty, gangs and guns are a toxic mixture, no matter what is the current fashion on MTV.
The work of upstart music producers in Durham, the RDU919 Music Group, Welcome to Durham has succeeded in jolting the city’s political establishment. The film’s February premiere in a packed Hayti Heritage Center drew Durham’s mayor, city manager, chief of police and many other local leaders. The film itself contains archival footage from a more tranquil (and segregated) Durham, before it arrives at its main contention that the construction of the Durham Freeway effectively handed over a death warrant for the once-proud and historically black neighborhood.
Much of the film’s shock value comes from images of Durham youngsters brandishing guns and flashing signs, an alternate Bull City universe that’s easy to ignore when it’s confined to the proverbial bad part of town that the rest of us have been trained to avoid.
Welcome to Durham will have an encore screening in the larger venue of the Carolina Theatre on June 22. Tickets are $5 and the film starts at 7:30 p.m. Call 560-3030 for more information. —David Fellerath