I watch a lot of documentaries and I listen to a lot of hip hop. The New York style of the early 80’s and the wave of electro-funk that emerged in that time in that place are my particular cup of tea. It probably explains why I have such a soft spot for breaksploitation flicks like Beat Street and Breakin’ (even though that takes place in LA). Combine that love with my nerdy hipster tilt toward documentary and it should come as no surprise that my favorite doc of all time is Style Wars. Have you ever seen Style Wars? If not, I’m going to have to suggest you drop everything right now and dig up a copy. It shouldn’t be too hard to find. It was released in a sweet 2-disc package a couple of years ago and to my knowledge, it’s not out of print. It is, quite frankly, amazing.
Style Wars is a time capsule of New York City in the early 1980’s that captures street culture as we know it today in its infancy. It’s mostly about the artists and writers who pioneered the art of train graffiti. It gets up close and personal with the artists and you see them at work. It also spotlights the dance crews of the time as well as the musicians producing the hip hop and electro and shows their interconnectedness, exploring why it was such a vital movement and meant so much to the kids on the street at the time. It’s real. It’s raw. Art is this is abstract concept that so many people perceive as this high-culture thing that happens in posh galleries and art schools around the country but Style Wars shows that the truth is the exact opposite of this. The art in Style Wars is freely available during any ride around the city on a train. It comes from your average teenager. It’s confrontational and expresses very real sentiments as well as being something that’s very nice to look at. It’s the voice of the street.
When it was produced in 1981, the filmmakers shot 30 hours of footage that wound up getting cut down to 69 minutes for broadcast and while this is a white-hot 69 minutes of a now mythical age of New York City, the hours of unseen footage (some of it available as outtakes on the DVD) is just as fascinating. The film’s producer, Henry Chalfant wants to make this footage available in a supplemental DVD release but to do this he’s going to have to rescue that footage. With digital film technology, this is going to be possible but at a hefty price tag of $28,000! Naturally, he’s turned to the internet. Using the killer Kickstarter platform, Chalfant is appealing to the masses out there for help in making this project happen. Like all other Kickstarters, you get something when you chip in, so pop over to the Kickstarter page, see the footage, see the promo clip and throw Henry a few bucks, will ya? They need to raise $28,000 in 30 days and as of this writing, they have $4,000 wit 28 days to go. We can make this happen! The film is amazing and the entire story of Style Wars is dying to be told!
Need convincing? You can watch the doc here, courtesy of Pitchfork Media