Dir/scr: George Gittoes. Aus. 2005. 118mins.
Though it needs to be cut drastically, Rampage is a power-packed documentarywith lots of potential. Set mostly in one of the worst black ghettoes in Miami,the film, which was shot over the course of several years by Australianfilm-maker George Gittoes, is lively, insightful andeven shocking.
Festival programmers andbuyers of docs for television, who may think there's nothing new to be seen orsaid about black American ghetto life, should give this film a serious look.Once its two-hour running time is shortened to a punchier and less repetitive90 minutes, it may even manage to snag theatrical distribution in the US andelsewhere.
Excluding this seriousproblem - and the fact that Gittoes is a littlecavalier in how he equates America's misguided invasion of Iraq with socialdistress in the US at the end of the film - it's amazingly energetic and willkeep audiences glued to the screen until they begin to lose patience with thefilm-maker's evident self-indulgence.
The documentary tells tworelated but very different stories and while they're both fascinating, theyshould be separated into two films or drastically condensed. Otherwiseaudiences may, out of sheer irritation, turn against its sympathetic protagonists.
Working on his last film, Soundtrack To War,Gittoes interviewed a young black American soldiernamed Elliott Lovett who told him that "we're more likely to shot in Miami thanin Baghdad." This comment stuck with the film-maker, and this new work is aportrait of Lovett and his two younger brothers, 20-year-old Marcus, anaspiring rapper, and 14-year-old Denzell in situ inan impoverished Miami neighbourhood known as Brown Sub.
Gittoes has lots of fun documenting the lives, loves, andpoetry of the family and takes the audience along with him. The testimony ofperhaps 20 or 30 additional individuals allows for a dense portrait of ghettorealities that will be an eye-opener for most audiences but that also showsmany of those encountered as talented, witty, and intelligent, if stunted bypoverty. The constant pounding of spontaneous slam poetry and rap music isjoyous if occasionally overdone.
But danger from violentrival gangs is always in the air, and finally Marcus, the middle brother, isshot. The loss is devastating to this dirt-poor but loving family and, withElliott back in Iraq, the focus of the film shifts to Denzell,the amazingly talented youngest son, and his quest to become a hip-hop star.
At this point, Gittoes documents, in a annoyinglyrepetitive fashion, his own attempts to aid Denzellland a contract and while it's often instructive about the music business, thewandering focus puts a serious dent in the powerful emotions generated in thefirst half of the film.
Gittoes And Dalton Productions
Film Finance Corp Australia