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Rubble Kings (2015); And the Power of One

April 14, 2016

Rubbleback

Urban decay is an ongoing economic issue of the 21st century. Poorly planned political decisions often serve as major contributions to the detrimental circumstances citizens of heavily populated cities encounter. The South Bronx, New York during the late 1960s into late 1970s became a case study that unearthed what happens when a city gets torn down then neglected. Rubble Kings exposes that grimy, horrific reality of 1970s South Bronx by showing viewers a city that became the embodiment of a living hell within contemporary America. A city ignored and left with nothing for its citizens except remnants of rage, fear, and disparity. At the same time Rubble Kings manages to hone in on how these lower-vibration feelings got transformed resulting in an uplifting of the community brought on by a handful of individual’s fight against barricades and systematic ailments whether intrinsic or manufactured.

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The South Bronx went from an average New York borough to a hell-hole depleted by white flight, middle class dissipation, and little to no options for the residual lower classes of mostly African-Americans and Hispanics. This lifestyle takes away comfort and security from an individual resulting in a desire for that individual to take away from another out of revenge. The South Bronx literally crumbled around its citizens resulting in the uprising of an unprecedented plethora of gangs looking to provide for each other what the government could and would not. Rubble Kings touches on these incidents briefly chronicling the origins, but leaving the main bulk of the film to focus on the gangs themselves.

Rubble Kings breaks apart the too frequently used narrative of a “white savior” who comes to save a group of troubled minorities. Instead Rubble Kings fortifies the power of the individual, more specifically a group of minorities in a destitute area of America that rose up to bring light and hope to their community. In a time when groups of gangs by the dozens (arguably hundreds) ran the streets and owned colors that condemned outsiders as targets, Benji and his gang, The Ghetto Brothers, changed the tides by fighting for truce and harmony among their peers. A politically and socially charged gang, The Ghetto Brothers helped change the scenery and bring self-awareness to the South Bronx’s youth by manifesting a community of artful expression.

New York native John Leguizamo narrates Shan Nicholson’s visual pairing of interviews, video footage, and photographs from those directly involved in the make-up of the South Bronx gangs in their heyday along with its preceding movement in the 1980s. Rubble Kings does nothing aesthetically that is unique or astonishing as a documentary. In fact the film lacks any powerful punch that contemporaries of the genre haven’t already contributed. But of course, like with any good contemporary documentary, the power lies in its story and its ability to excite and inspire viewers.

At times I was honestly distributed by Rubble Kings bubbly aesthetic that delivers a jolly score and high-key lighting that sets the mood for its ultimately uplifting end. My questionable resolve was initiated by how Rubble Kings manages to contrast joyous moments of interviewees joking and light-heartedly recalling their past with the very real danger and pain these men caused innocent people among others in their youth. Though the men and one woman featured throughout film were lucky enough to grow older and move out of the conditions that plagued them in their youth, many real life bodies were punished, tortured, and harmed by the hands of the interviewees and the gangs they rolled with.

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That’s not to say that I don’t understand that this isn’t the film’s job or desired interjection. Rubble Kings looks to unveil how a few individuals during his time made a change within themselves which ushered in major changes around them to squash beef and help produce a new movement that the South Bronx would become renowned for— hip-hop, graffiti, and breakdance during the 1980s. These men and women involved in the initially violent circumstances went on to become Band-Aids and healing tools for their communities instead of cancers and diseases. Rubble Kings makes this point loudly and effectively.

We exist in a time where the power of the individual seems forgotten. Instead politicians like Donald Trump are calling for an “us vs. them” mentality from the people. This urging of separating ourselves from one another and shunning those who aren’t like us out of fear does nothing but repeat the same twisted patterns of the past that history books, films, and individuals themselves have been preaching against for years. Rubble Kings is a swift kick in the backside to jolt the memory of what happens when we separate into opposing groups. We kill and harm each other while destroying the people around us. We must alternatively fight for peace and harmony, as Benji did in a time when no one else wanted to. It’s up the individual to find internal peace before we’re able to calm the troubling chaos around us. By simply remembering we are all one on this planet together, only then can we uplift ourselves and each other to promote a world of expression and art.

SEE IT. On Netflix, then contemplate your place in the greater good of society.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Alethia permalink
    April 14, 2016 2:09 PM

    “By simply remembering we are all one on this planet together, only then can we uplift ourselves and each other to promote a world of expression and art.”
    Amen to that 🙂

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