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THE YEAR’S MOST DANGEROUS INDEPENDENT FILM?

by
in Filmmaking
on Jan 16, 2005

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Somehow, I don’t think the folks at Apple promoting iMovie had this in mind.

From today’s New York Times comes this very disturbing article by Fox Butterfield about the methods by which youth gangs are threatening grand jury witnesses. (Times registration required.) The article talks about a two-hour DVD doc entitled Stop Snitching being distributed “grass-roots style” in local neighborhoods which puts out a threatening message to witnesses of violent crime.

After detailing several instances where witnesses around the country have been murdered because of their grand jury testimony, the article notes:

“And in each city, CD’s and DVD’s titled Stop Snitching have surfaced, naming some people street gangs suspect of being witnesses against them and warning that those who cooperate with the police will be killed. To underscore its message, the Baltimore DVD shows what appears to be three dead bodies on its back cover above the words ‘snitch prevention’… [The DVD] features young men smoking marijuana, flashing wads of $100 bills, waving guns and making violent threats, some against specific witnesses. ‘He’s a rat, a snitch,’ one man sings, continuing with obscenities. ‘He’s dead because I don’t believe he’s from the ‘hood.’

The maker of the DVD has said he was only documenting the attitudes and concerns of people in West Baltimore.”

The article goes on to talk about the DVD’s celebrity cameo:

“The DVD has drawn particular attention because of the appearance on it of Carmelo Anthony, 20, a National Basketball Association star with the Denver Nuggets who grew up in Baltimore. Mr. Anthony does not make any threats in the DVD.

Calvin Andrews, Mr. Anthony’s agent, said, ‘He was not aware a DVD was being produced. He was just hanging out with some guys from the neighborhood who had a video camera.’ Mr. Andrews added of Mr. Anthony: ‘He doesn’t condone the message about intimidation.'”

A column by Gregory Kane in the Baltimore Sun details another side to the story:

“Rodney Bethea feels there’s something not quite right with us media types. Bethea is the co-producer — with Skinny Suge — and editor of Stop Snitching. He sells the DVDs in his Frederick Road shop for 10 bucks a pop. Bethea isn’t a happy camper these days. He feels the news media have misrepresented the video, which Bethea said was made for ‘entertainment purposes’ and is basically a documentary about what’s happening on Baltimore’s streets.

‘It’s no different than a documentary about a serial killer,’ Bethea said Sunday afternoon inside the One Love Underground store. Bethea didn’t say much more than that. In fact, he was reluctant to sell me a copy of Stop Snitching. His attorneys had advised him not to talk to the news media. Bethea was worried that there would be more misrepresentation of Stop Snitching. I assured him I wanted not only to get his side of the story, but to watch the video and judge for myself if folks have legitimate reason to worry.”

Kane goes on to watch the video and while he does not exactly give it a “thumbs up,” he does discuss how the threats contained within it are, in parts of the piece, clearly “nothing more than part of the macho posturing common to today’s hip-hop culture.”

Kane’s article wraps up, though with a closer that has the punch of an urban-themed Ring:

“When I asked a group of six students at Southwestern High School if they had seen the video, five said they had. Two boys said Stop Snitching isn’t the only video of its kind, that they’re quite common and that they are the only type of movies they watch.”

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