Joe Berlinger’s exploration of Chevron/Texaco oils’ affect on Ecuadorian communities in Crude doesn’t immediately draw comparisons to gang culture in South Central L.A. But Stacy Peralta’s Crips and Bloods: Made in America does share the same crucial theme of minority cultures suffering due to social, political and economical factors.
In Crude, it is a big corporation dumping toxic waste in waters that serve to hydrate and clean 30,000 Ecuadorians. Berlinger documents the legal battle between the oil company and its team of lawyers and health experts versus the grass roots and human rights lawyers trying to make it right – “it” being the polluted water causing livestock and livelihood to die, teenagers to get cancer and two week old babies to be covered in rashes head to tie. The quest for justice and awareness is hopeful, thanks to coverage in Vanity Fair, support from Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and from Trudie Styler (co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation).
In Crips and Bloods, Peralta explains the genesis of gang culture by going back in time to slavery, the Watts riots, the banning of “undesirables” from certain neighborhoods and the Rodney King riots which all helped form the largest gangs in North America. Other factors like fatherless families, poor education and a gun culture has created a new family unit – the gang.
It’s the same story for both documentaries, that no resources and an unequal battle has led to dire circumstances, although in Crips and Bloods, it’s a little harder to define who is the enemy in the battle.
But Crips and Bloods does end on a hopeful note too, with some former gang members opening up groups and centers to give black youth opportunities that don’t involve guns or red or blue colors. Peralta’s doc also claims the support of celebrities, NBA star Baron Davis (who served as producer of the film), Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne.
Both films document fights that for all sorts of reasons should be major issues, but have somehow never found sustained interest from the media, politicians and everyday people – unless you count 1-minute news clips about a gun fight or dead body in Compton. Crude and Crips and Bloods deserve to be seen.