COLORS: BANGIN’ IN SOUTH CAROLINA

3 Stars
Year Released: 2013
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 60 minutes
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Terrence Davis’ documentary, Colors: Bangin’ in South Carolina, focuses on the rise of gangs in South Carolina, particularly during the first decade of the 2000s, when South Carolina became listed as the most violent state in the nation. Telling the stories of the explosion of gangs, from the Gangster Killer Bloods, Gangster Disciples and Insane Crip Nation, to name just a few, the documentary paints a picture of increasing complexity and eventual chaos.

In their early days, the gang lines seem more easily defined. As the years roll along, however, and gang sets merge or begin connecting more with their originators, such as in the case of the static between “left-hand bangin'” and “right-hand bangin'” Crips, things start to get more confusing. Suddenly battle lines, as they were, weren’t just between rival gangs so much as within the gangs themselves. The loyalty and unity became strained.

And when things really got out of hand, the FBI got involved, employing a “Gang Law,” allowing a different set of legal consequences for those deemed to be involved in gang-related activities. In other words, if you were in a gang, and you got busted for anything, the FBI could send you up for 10 years in prison, depending on how your crime was addressed and interpreted.

To a certain extent it worked, but in others it made things worse. With gang leaders behind bars, the remaining members, particularly younger, found themselves without the knowledge of how to self-regulate their sets. The likelihood for an “anything goes” anarchy, without the necessary history, was increased.

It’s only an hour long, but the documentary throws a lot of information at you. Whether it be crime statistics, gang slang or history of the different sets, it becomes a steep learning curve. You can follow along if you pay attention, but there’s little hand-holding and it can be easy to get lost in the information coming at you.

Still, you don’t always need to know who is talking, or what set they’re representing, to understand the messages coming through. The story of the growth of gangs in South Carolina, particularly in Columbia, is a clear one. You see the rise and the transformation of the different crews and sets, as well as the response by first the police, then the FBI and eventually the community. You hear the cautionary tales, and you see the consequences of gang life. As one interviewee states, being in a gang ends in one of two places, jail or death.

Overall, there’s a lot to learn about gang culture and growth in South Carolina in Colors: Bangin’ in South Carolina, and the film just tells it like it is. It doesn’t glorify on the one end nor does it employ the “scared straight” tactics on the other end. It just presents facts, first person accounts and lets it go from there. It’s not a slick production, though it has its moments; mainly it goes for raw honesty, and the look and feel of the documentary reflects that choice.

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Posted on May 8, 2013 in Reviews by
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