I love slice of life films. So, my curiosity was peaked, after reading a review for Gimme the Loot. It’s rare that we get good black films these days, let alone about black teens. However, my eyebrows were raised after I watched the trailer). I wondered why so many young white women in a film about black teens. I researched the writer-director Adam Leon, and turned out he’s a young white director. The film has also been endorsed/presented by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme. It made more sense that two white male directors would feel the need to incorporate whiteness into black folks lives. To be fair though, the young white women do serve a purpose for one scene in the film.
SPOILERS !!! SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!
The two young actors (Tashiana Washington (Sophia) and Ty Hickson (Malcolm) were amazing. They portrayed Bronx teens, pretty convincingly. I am especially looking forward to more work from Ms. Washington. While her role was the cliché loud/foul mouth black girl, you understand why. As a young woman in the male dominated world of graffiti/taggers, she has to make folks take her seriously. Actually, that might have made it a more complex film, looking at her life from the perspective as a young woman tagger. There are a couple of sweet moments for Sophia, but overall, the character is the standard sassy black girl. I also didn’t care for seeing the black female character lamenting about possibly not being seen as beautiful as the white female lead.
My other concern was that Sophia and Malcolm engage in a lot of criminal activity. Okay, I’ll backtrack a bit. The storyline revolves around two best friends, Sophia and Malcolm, who are also graffiti artists. They decide they want to leave a mark on New York City (NYC), in a big way. The two teens set their sights on tagging a big apple, that pops up, every time a home run is made at Shea Stadium. In order to do this, Malcolm has arranged for them to pay $500 dollars to a security that works there, so they can get into the stadium. Of course, they are teens with limited funds, and need to get money anyway they can. So, there is context to their criminality, but I still didn’t care for it. The first scene starts off with them stealing from a store and progressing to a potential robbery .
Currently, New York City has been under fire for its Stop & Frisk law. The concern of racial profiling of black & brown folks, especially young folks, is very real. There have been several instances of unjust harassment of young people of color by the NYPD:
NYPD Commanding Officer Caught On Tape Ordering Cops To Stop And Frisk Young “Male Blacks
How ‘Stop and Frisk’ Is Too Often a Sexual Assault by Cops on Teenagers in Targeted NYC Neighborhoods
I know it’s just a film, but it made me uneasy to see young folks of color casually stealing, robbing, and selling drugs. It’s not an image that needs to perpetuated, when there is so much intense racial profiling, in areas like the Bronx. Leon does try to show the racial and class disparities in NYC, with Malcolm and the white female character, Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze ). It’s during the scene with Malcolm, Ginnie, and her white girlfriends where you feel for Malcolm (and Sophia) and understand how their lives have been framed, so much differently from these upper-class white girls.
I did enjoy watching the two charismatic teens zig-zag around their neighborhood. It was interesting to see all the many characters they interact with, during their harrowing weekend. The ending scene was also very heartwarming. It will be interesting to see other folks of color thoughts on this film.