I spent a third of my life with graffiti, I learned so much. Be it actually painting walls and trains, to now working directly with artists on paid gigs. Funny thing is working with Monster Energy, I worked with a lot of artists and lifestyle creatives. But my very first paid gig I got was with Red Bull. That’s another story…
First, graff movies for me were via VHS tapes. You can spot them immediately because the covers were all done up with letters and characters, or some dude hanging off a train. They had a special look to them. And the basic formula for a good graff video was this: graffiti + nudity + violence. Partially because in this world, a lot of this happens somewhat regularly. But graffiti was the bulk of the video; bombs, throw ups, pieces, productions, trains, whole cars, rollers, heavens…you name it.
The videos I will be recommending will be 100% my opinion, it’s subjective. I feel this list would satisfy the curiosity of gen pop and hardcore graffiti writers. This is really a mix of movies and documentaries, nonetheless serve as both entertaining and very informative. Let’s go through some of my recommendations.
“They call themselves writers because that’s what they do. They write their names, among other things, everywhere.”
This is a classic. Believe it or not this was a hip hop documentary from PBS that was filmed during the early 80s in New York, BIG TIME for the culture. This film was important as graffiti and one of its’ cultures was in its’ prime, not to mention Henry Chalfant was there to document it with kings like Skeme, Cap, Dondi, Seen, Crazy Legs and more. It goes over specific terms, meaning, rules in the graff game. Pieces were usually covered in the underground tunnels and trains.
A must see. Hip hop’s first motion picture and it was done well. It features legends like Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quinones, Lady Pink, the Rock Steady Crew, The Cold Crush Brothers, Queen Lisa Lee of Zulu Nation, and Grandmaster Flash. While the movie focused on the four elements of hip hop, the story told about graffiti was done through two characters Zoro (Lee, but Dondi played his double!) and Lady Pink (Rose) and their love story (kind of). The plot revolves around Zoro’s insane passion and struggle for his art and personal life. Trailer below.
This film was raw. It follows six graffiti artists: Saber, Toomer, Jase, Claw, Earsnot and Enem throughout America. This was also very entertaining as it includes a somewhat graffiti character “Graffiti Guerrilla,” a dude who spends his time driving around the city just to paint over graff. Throughout the film, the artists discuss why they do what they do through brutal honesty and humor. Full film below.
This is pre Facebook David Choe. I first watched this in the Summer of 2010 when I got it from Upper Playground in SF. During this time, I was in and out of Sacramento to the Bay painting Muni tunnels, billboards and yards. This is one of my favorite films about a particular artist. David’s touches upon his early years of schemes of money and art, eventually to his life changing event being locked up in Tokyo. Oh and he draws gigantic whales. Check it out.
Banksy – you probably heard of him. Ever heard of King Robbo? This was a very interesting thing for graffiti, it literally was a “tit-for-tat banter” between 2 heavyweights, one of them is just infamous. Robbo completed a piece in 85 in London, truly one of its’ pioneers. In 06 it gets tagged over by some toys. In 09, Banksy rolls through and uses it for his “wallpapering up graffiti piece.” They go back and forth on this. It was graffiti writers vs street artists. Full video below.
Speaking of Banksy…he made a documentary? Comedy? Drama? It’s all about fame, money and pure vandalism. The film is actually not about Banksy, it’s about Mr. Brainwash. An avid videographer turned street artist who happen to live in the same space as banksy. This is the result, this is the film. Don’t miss this…it’s genius. Peep the trailer.
Piece by piece: San Francisco Graffiti
West coast junkies will love this, it’s graff in the city from 80’s to early 2000s. It does dabble in street art too, but the film is insight into why artists do what they do – straight from the creative minds of Cuba, Giant, Poesia, Reyes, Saytz, Twist(Barry McGee),Twick and crews AWR, ICP, Lords, MSK, TMF, TWS and more. Full movie below.