Crips and Bloods: Made in America
Chronicles the decades-long cycle of destruction and despair that defines modern gang culture in South LA.
Directed by Stacy Peralta
Produced by Baron Davis, Dan Halsted, Stacy Peralta
Shaun Murphy, Gus Roxburgh and Cash Warren
Executive Producer: Steve Luczo and Quincy "QD3" Jones III
Director of Photography: Tony Hardmon
Editor: T.J. Mahar
Original Music: Kamasi Washington
Music Performed by DJ Krush
Music by Matter
Narrator: Forest Whitaker
A co-production of Balance Vector Productions and Verso Entertainment
With its unprecedented access into the worlds of active gangs, Crips and Bloods: Made in America offers a compelling, character-driven documentary narrative which chronicles the decades-long cycle of destruction and despair that defines modern gang culture. From the genesis of LA's gang culture to the shocking, war-zone reality of daily life in the South L.A., the film chronicles the rise of the Crips and Bloods, tracing the origins of their bloody four-decades long feud. Contemporary and former gang members offer their street-level testimony that provides the film with a stark portrait of modern-day gang life: the turf wars and territorialism, the inter-gang hierarchy and family structure, the rules of behavior, the culture of guns, death and dishonor.
"As ever with Peralta, it's as impossible to take in everything on a first viewing as it is to look away from the screen." Robert Koehler, Variety
Throughout the film ex-gang members, gang intervention experts, writers, activists and academics analyze many of the issues that contribute to South LA's malaise: the erosion of identity that fuels the self-perpetuating legacy of black self-hatred, the disappearance of the African-American father and an almost pervasive prison culture in which today one out of every four black men will be imprisoned at some point in his life.
Finally the gang members themselves articulate their enduring dream of a better life. They provide Crips and Bloods: Made in America with its ultimate statement: a message of hope and a cautionary tale of redemption aimed at saving the lives of a new generation of kids, not just in South LA but anywhere in the world that gang violence exists.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2007
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-853-8
"A breathtaking and groundbreaking film. It explains how a system of racial domination and economic injustice is at the heart of Los Angeles' gang problem. It exposes the outrage and alienation of LA's Crips and Bloods while not sugarcoating their self-destructive violence. This film is a welcome corrective to one-sided law enforcement and media stereotypes of gangs."
John Hagedorn, Dept of Criminal Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago, Author, A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and the Gangsta Culture and People and Folks: Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City
"This is one of the most powerful documentaries on the history of street gangs that I have ever watched. It is authentic and direct in presenting the history and foundation of these two violent street gangs in America. The film clearly shows what the root causes, fundamental ideology's and beliefs for the existence of street gangs. The film also shows the need for a Public Health approach vs a Criminal Justice approach to the reduction of violent street gangs and youth violence. Crips and Bloods also speaks to the need of addressing what is truly helpful to young people, especially young men of color. The film brings attention to the artificial pride that has been created based on the promotion of self-hatred. Therefore, I strongly recommend that this film be shown primarily to parents/especially fathers, elected politicians, the policy makers of this country, educators, mental health professionals and young people."
Dr. Ulric Johnson, Assistant Dean, School of
Human Services, Springfield College-Boston Campus, Director and Founder of Teens Against Gang Violence
"A powerful film that gets to the root of a real problem that for many minority groups speaks volumes as to what invisibility and denial can do to people. Like any other form of oppression, the formation of these two gangs seems to be a reaction to invisibility, oppression and discrimination against poor African Americans in the Los Angeles area. Thus, this documentary helps those looking for an answer to a very complex and growing problem to find some keys that could result in getting a realistic solution to the gangs' problems not only in Los Angeles, but in other part of the United States as well. In conclusion, the documentary presents key elements of reactions to oppression and discrimination, which are important to know and understand in order to find solutions that can be long lasting and effective."
Dr. Edil Torres Rivera, Professor, Department of Counselor Education, University of Florida
"Crips and Bloods captured the full attention of my students from beginning to end like no other documentary ever has. Everyone who sees this film will have a breakthrough in understanding the causes of gang violence and the people who inhabit the war zones of LA, people that most of us rarely if ever come into contact with, let alone engage in dialogue. The quality of the interviews of gang members and residents, interspersed with rarely seen contemporary and archival film, helps you feel the pain, anger and courage of the warriors, peacemakers and ordinary residents. The compelling stories they tell about their life experiences illustrate the evolution of inner city violence spanning many decades. Commentary by historians, social scientists and activists provide expert analysis."
Paula Garb, Department of Anthropology, co-Director and co-Founder, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, University of California - Irvine
"More than merely a profile of L.A. gang violence, the program delves into murkier waters of self-esteem, single-parent households, guns, drugs, imprisonment, and survivors, including wrenching interviews with mothers of murdered gang members. This portrait of gang life is one of compassion and humanity - a rare feat achieved through intimate interviews and historic footage."
Booklist, Editor's Choice
"A powerful piece that attempts to demystify gang culture, without sugar coating the surrounding issues or downplaying the extreme violence. While certainly about money, power, drugs, gang life, as exemplified by the Bloods and Crips, it is also about family and is rife with psychological, sociological and anthropological issues. And it's a perfect case study for urban and African-American Studies...Very comprehensive and beautifully produced...This film is highly recommended and appropriate for any library media collection."
Nicole Cooke, Montclair State University, Educational Media Reviews Online
"I watched this movie six times. None of the viewings was easy...I took the assignment as an avid film fan, a political scientist specializing in violence, conflict and democracy, a New Yorker watching a movie about West Coast gangs, and, most importantly, as a non-young, black male. It did not occur to me that the film would cause me to lose sleep, reconceptualize what I focused my research on in particular and what conflict studies was concerned with generally. The film did all of this...At each viewing, I ended the film with a strong sense of outrage and frustration, later followed by days and weeks of reflection about how I was part of the solution or part of the problem."
Christian Davenport, Professor of Peace Studies, Political Science and Sociology, University of Notre Dame, Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict
"A gripping presentation...Crips and Bloods: Made in America is a wonderfully effective bit of filmmaking...Most powerfully of all, no doubt, are the vivid personalities of men who actually took part in early gangs and riots, as well as recent and current gang members. The film, then, does not feel like an exercise in ancient history but is very much alive. In combination with items such as Scott's/Shakur's autobiography and other street-level accounts of gang life, the film would make an excellent teaching tool, as well as a stirring presentation for public audiences...Suitable for some mature high school classes (some strong language included) and for college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of race and ethnicity, anthropology of violence, and African-American or American culture studies, as well as general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Community College of Denver, Anthropology Review Database
"I could not pull myself away from Stacy Peralta's riveting, revelatory, exhaustive examination of the 40-year history of gang warfare in South Central L.A."
Rob Salem, TheStar.com
"Insightful and moving...Peralta masterfully presents both a historical primer and accounting of the self-perpetuating cycle of violence through study of social alienation, economic hardship, familial survival, drug use and institutional prejudice...This isn't an episode of The Wire, these are human beings, being unmade, daily, right here in America."
Mike Raffensperger, Zoom In Online - Film and TV
"Amazing music selections match perfectly with the images. As ever with Peralta, it's as impossible to take in everything on a first viewing as it is to look away from the screen."
Robert Koehler, Variety
"With the help of various talking heads culled from academia and from the mean streets, he manages to put a human face on a subject that tends to inspire inflamed debate and has produced calamitous laws and policies, along with a lot of pop culture."
Manohla Dargis, New York Times
"Why is there so much violence in South L.A.? What are the historical roots of the Bloods and Crips? Stacy Peralta's documentary Made in America employs hip-hop beats and music video aesthetics (quick edits, slick cinematography, artful use of still photography) to answer those twined questions...It's a lot to take in, and Peralta does an admirable job cramming tons of history and insight into his reportage on how the 'hood' came to be."
Ernest Hardy, Village Voice
"Heart-rending expose...The picture more importantly offers a serious discussion of exactly how the Crips and the Bloods came to be. It makes no bones about indicting a segregated L.A. culture which discouraged black boys from joining Cub Scout or Boy Scout troops located in lily-white communities, leaving the generally-fatherless African-American adolescents to fend for themselves in the ghetto."
Kam Williams, AALBC.com
"A compelling portrait of how economic and social oppression have helped contribute to the Bloods and Crips' bloody civil war...With sober intelligence, he details the means by which a confluence of explosive interrelated factors -- the LAPD's authoritarian, racist tactics; geographic segregation; the absence of African-American fathers; and the disappearance of working-class industrial jobs -- helped set the stage for the 1965 Watts riots and, after the black power movement's assassination-assisted collapse, the gangs' genesis."
Nick Schager, Slant Magazine
Includes The Making of Crips and Bloods (27 mins) + 7 short films: Slavery, Conditioning, The Penal System, Thoughts on Fatherhood, Thoughts on Shame and Self-Hatred,
Thoughts on Violence, Gangsta Rap and the Spread of Gangs (37 mins total), plus Scene Selection and SDH Captions.
The film's website
Independent Lens' website for the film
PBS Discussion Guide
PBS Facilitator's Guide
Awards and Festivals
Video Librarian's Best Documentaries of the Year 2009 List
Editors' Choice Annual Selection, ALA's Booklist
Short-Listed for Best Documentary Feature, Academy Awards®
Emmy Award Nomination for Best Documentary
Sundance Film Festival
National PBS Broadcast on "Independent Lens"
Los Angeles Film Festival
Deauville Film Festival
Bergen Film Festival
Oslo Film Festival
Torino Film Festival
Jackson Hole Film Festival
New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
American Psychological Association Convention
Citizenship and Civics
Race and Racism
Urban and Regional Planning
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... more Reviews
"You'll walk out both enlightened and dismayed."
Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News
"There are no easy answers to the devastating realities that the residents of South Central confront daily, but Made in America starts an important discussion that can lead to change."
Jessica Mosby, TheWip.net
"Both striking and unnerving."
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
"Patience paid off; the film shows some of the faces and personalities behind the headlines."
G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle
"Gripping...Does much to contextualize the origins of Los Angeles gangs within the city's African American history."
Cheryl Eddy, San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Sobering...shows the battle lines behind which gang members have imprisoned themselves."
"Moving and damning....riveting."
"Transcends the talking head, single-camera interview format to become something far more compelling, alive and real. The film draws up anger, sadness, compassion, but scholarly explores the history of South LA black culture with a fine-tooth comb. Crips and Bloods gives a human face to a vicious enemy we've long feared and hated."
R.L. Shaffer, IGN.com
"A compelling examination of how the American Dream failed so miserably on the streets of South Central Los Angeles...Crips and Bloods: Made in America goes a long way to creating a level of understanding and opening the door to dialogs that need to occur in order to end a war that most people don't even know about. This is documentary filmmaking that is powerful and evocative, and stands as a movie that should be required viewing."
David Walker, DVD Talk