Saturday, September 12, 2009

DVD Review: Thug Life in D.C.

There is a war going on in the streets of Washington. Teenage ‘thugs’ armed with automatic weapons run many of the inner city blocks. Fully half of the black men between the ages of 18 and 35 are in the prison system. That is more than 24.000 young men in jail or in prison, on probation or parole, out on bond or on the run. For many of them ‘Thug Life’ is the guiding philosophy. As they see it, life is short, with few options, so they live fast and dangerously, as they scramble for their share of the pie with the rapacious zeal of corporate raiders.

Filmmakers Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson follow one of these teenagers over the course of two and a half years, from his entry into the prison system. We meet Aundrey Burno #268 428, aka ‘Bruno’, in the DC jail, where he is awaiting trial for the attempted murder of a police officer and the murder of an 18-year-old boy. He has been locked down on suspicion of stabbing another inmate. He wears a towel over his face, outlaw style. He is king of the juveniles, well respected for his dedication to thug life. ”I am the definition of thug,” he says. He is facing a total of 115 years.

Thug Life In D.C. tells the harrowing true story of Aundrey. On one hand Burno is a street-hardened young man who talks of the "thug life" creed that "you gotta do what you gotta do to survive," but at the same time it's hard not to see the fear and despair in his eyes as his case moves along, or in his pleas to his younger brother not to follow the path he's walked. Thug Life In D.C. was produced by Levin for HBO's America Undercover documentary series.

But as his 18th birthday approaches, so does the grim realization that he may spend the rest of his life in prison. He takes off his mask to speak to the filmmakers, revealing a young man with surprising insights into himself and his circumstances. He tries to convince his younger brother, Kevin, not to follow in his footsteps, but predicts that he will join him one day. Bruno feels that he has no options in life, observing, ”Our generation died when our fathers were born.”


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