Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NOX, a 2005 Pre-Katrina Film About the Economics of Violence and Poverty in New Orleans, Is Food for Thought

WARNING: The one-hour documentary below contains foul language, including heavy use of f-bombs and the n-word. It also contains naked women and sexually explicity scenes in the French Quarter as well as real incidents of violence. You've been warned. The company 2 Mindz Productions produced the video.

The documentary New Orleans Exposed was uploaded to YouTube in August 2012, but it's a much older video; it was originally released in May 2005, before Hurricane Katrina. Falling into the "guerrilla filmmaking" genre, it covers the dire economic conditions plaguing a significant part of New Orleans's black community. (These conditions remain the same today for many families.) The film discusses the flow of guns into poor neighborhoods, the city's deficient education system, and offers opinions about over- and discriminatory policing of black neighborhoods. The concern about unfair policing practices has been in the news here again with Mayor Landrieu's attempt to void the consent decree that addresses questionable police tactics.

Evaluating possible reasons for the many shootings in New Orleans, some of the men in the video claim that the city is not a gang-controlled city, but one where every man is for himself. However, clips of youngsters promoting pride for one housing project over another suggest some kind of gang mentality has been at work; they talk of beefing over territories and indicate that some of the rivalries spur violence. Viewers may keep in mind that many of these housing projects have been demolished since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city.

As for shooting incidents and deaths, you will see people still in their hospital gowns showing staples up their arms and stomachs, the result of doctors removing bullets. One young man shows gun wounds from at least five separate shootings over his body.

The poet Kalamu ya Salaam also appears in the video and says that in some parts of the city, it's easier to get a gun than a book. He also reminds viewers that none of the people with the guns in poor communities own factories that make guns.

New Orleans is no longer called the "Murder Capital of America," as mentioned in the video. Chicago seems to have taken that title. But New Orleans still has more than its share of killings.

The video moves on to say HipHop is saving some young men from the streets, and one young man says that when they sing about violence they are not glorifying it but telling what they've been through.

I don't know whether this documentary will help anyone understand anything about the climate that breeds violence, but the film certainly provides food for thought.

Musically, the culture represented is the same that produced Young Money and Lil Wayne. The video features Soulja Slim and his funeral second line. The rapper was gunned down in 2003.

Before Hurricane Katrina's aftermath unfolding on television revealed the level of poverty, racial divides, and the failing education system in New Orleans, this documentary would have come as a shock to many people. The face of New Orleans in travel shows is much more clean and romantic. However, nearly eight years past Katrina, perhaps the video today will only provoke a head nod.

Nevertheless, the scenes show people who have never seen the underbelly of New Orleans how much of the city exists beyond the French Quarter and how much of it is not very pretty. The vision and raw voices in it will never be featured in a tourist commission commercial, but for anyone trying to understand the violence in this city that runs beside its rich artistic culture that so much of the world loves, this film is worth a look.

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