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Rolling Down the Street: East side Oakland's Ford Falcon culture is captured in new documentary.

Film Threat

MACLA film festival sheds light on hip-hop's other elements

By Todd Inoue

I RECENTLY procured a VHS copy of Tougher Than Leather, that odorous RUN-D.M.C. feature film from the late '80s. Written and directed by record producer RICK RUBIN, the film didn't do hip-hop any favors. The worst scene—at the zoo—has Rubin confiding that if he were any animal, he'd be a giraffe for the ability to autofellate. The film solidified that rappers should stick to rapping and leave the celluloid to pros.

But hip-hop and Hollywood have always held a contentious relationship. Style Wars and Wild Style remain the pinnacle documents on the genre's origins. The '80s brought flashy moments like Krush Groove, Beat Street and the Breakin' flicks. The '90s bridged suburbia and the street with House Party, Boyz-n-tha-Hood, Friday and Spike Lee joints. The cheap availability of digital video ushered in the rapumentary and the guerrilla feature (I'm Bout It). And in November, 50 CENT's life story thus far will hit screens nationwide when GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN' gets theatrical release. If that's too gangsta for your tastes, Todd Bridges stars in I GOT FIVE ON IT, coming out later this year (really!).

Voices and experiences exist on multiple levels, and Sept. 23–24, MACLA in downtown San Jose provides a platform: GHETTO FABULOUS: THE BE-SIDES OF HIP-HOP FILM FESTIVAL. Leaning toward the ignored and the unconventional, the films will be supplemented by live painting by Kashmere 120 and Enigma 120, DJs and MCs, and conversation with director Brian Lilla.

GHETTO FABULOUS (Saturday, 7pm) is also the title of a documentary by Brian Lilla on the burgeoning Ford Falcon scene in east Oakland. Lilla follows the Falcon Boys—a loose-knit collective of men high on the Falcon's quaint yet urbane charms. Lilla talks to the OGs and the new cats taking their car obsession to further levels. Lilla peels back the harsh layers of the east side O to reveal the human engine roaring underneath. Ghetto Fabulous also discusses the social climate that leads the men to rely on drastic means to make their rides more fly.

With graffiti gaining ground in the mainstream, BOMB THE SYSTEM (Friday, 8pm) comes at the right time. The big-budget feature focuses on two bombers BLEST (Mark Webber) and BUK50 (Gano Grills) as they ascend the food chain. Blest gets pressure from his mother and is tempted by fame and gallery offers. Buk50 gets framed for something Blest does, and the cops make things a drag for everybody. Bomb the System comes off as stylized and too clean, like an NYPD Blue episode stretched to 90 minutes, but the film stays true to the elements, including some great lessons on racking cans, plus an excellent score by EL-P.

In short: Through conversations and performances with female DJs such as JAZZY JOYCE, WANDA DEE, SHORTEE, SYMPHONY and KUTTIN' KANDI, the feature MIXTRESS X (Saturday, 2pm) documents the female DJ from the studio to the radio station to the club to the basement. They talk about the pressures and precision of rising above in a male-dominated hip-hop game. HIP-HOP HOMOS (Saturday, 4pm) explores the struggles of two openly gay rappers—DEADLEE and GOD-DES—as they navigate the minefield of a culture that often calls for their eradication. Deadlee will appear in person for Q&A and performance. Following Homos, ECOLOGY OF LOVE is a French New Wave–inspired film by BRIN HILL starring Neptunes producer PHARRELL WILLIAMS. Then SPIN THE BOTTLE is a goofy short by SCOTT BOSWELL starring PEACHES CHRIST, a glam queen a little too obsessed with Madonna's Truth or Dare. And who isn't?

All screenings happen in the Castellano Playhouse (510 S. First St., San Jose), and tickets are $7 per show or $20 for all-access pass. Visit www.maclaarte.org for info.

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From the September 21-27, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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