EmptyFrom its opening quotation by Goethe to its citing of cave drawings as an antecedent to its global perspective, Antidote Films' "Bomb It" invests the subject of graffiti with perhaps more gravitas than many viewers will think it deserves.
Nonetheless, this documentary from Jon Reiss, who explored the topic of rave culture with a similar exhaustiveness in his "Better Living Through Circuitry," will no doubt have its fans. The film is in the midst of a national theatrical rollout.
The filmmaker traces the underground culture back to its roots, citing Philadelphia's Cornbread as a graffiti pioneer who was given the moniker "King of the Walls" several decades ago. He proceeds to trace its development over the years by concentrating on such prolific practitioners as Taki 183, who used his position as a bike messenger to spread his nickname all over New York; Tracy 168, who led the way in the so-called "wildstyle" form; and Lady Pink, who lent a feministic aspect to the practice.
From there, the film goes on a dizzying global tour, spotlighting graffiti artists on five continents in such cities as Barcelona, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Paris, Cape Town and many others, and exploring how each country's individual culture and socio-political scene influenced the so-called "bombers." Also dealt with is the many ways in which graffiti has been co-opted by mainstream culture and commercialization.
Although clearly supportive of graffiti as an art form and mode of individualistic expression, the filmmaker does take pains to provide interviews with various law enforcement and government officials who have, to put it mildly, rather opposite views.
"Bomb It" inevitably becomes repetitive and also suffers from a highly erratic technical quality -- much of the footage was necessarily shot on the sly -- but it certainly fulfills its intended mission.