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I was fortunate to have finally seen This is England, thank you, Netflix which prompted me to think about other movies about gangs that left a deep impression. Check out the following three great films!

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This week on I, Queue Genius:
First, a racist is a racist no matter how cool his accent is, then, senseless murders in paradise, and finally, Ricky Martin has nothing on these girls!

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This is England (UK, 2006). What makes this movie so awesomely awesome is the simple fact that the leading man, a 12-year-old boy actually, is so damned natural, so funny, so genuine, that you find yourself laughing throughout the entire thing, until of course you shed a tear at the end. This is England is director Shane Meadow’s semi-autobiographical look into his youth in 1983 Liverpool. Using the personal story of his acceptance into a Ben-Sherman-and-Doc-Marten-clad gang of skinheads (that was the real thing folks) Meadows paints a true-to-life and yet seriously entertaining picture. The film’s Thomas Turgoose (as the unyieldingly tough boy Shaun) delivers a performance that is worthy of awards in this historical flick about working-class Brits, the failed Falkland Wars, and the dark, grim reality of racism and xenophobia.

IQG, what about racism and xenophobia in America? Try, The Believer (USA, 2000).

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Our Lady of the Assassins (Colombia, 2000). Dark, unforgiving, and ultimately heartbreaking, La virgen de los sicarios manages to both infuriate and inspire at the same time. Set in internationally-known Medellin, Colombia, the story of a young “mara” boy and his older friend unfolds among the reality of Colombia’s current war with drug-trafficking and seemingly random acts of violence. The director of Our Lady of the Assassins seems to have employed the talents of actual gang members to tell his reality-based story. And though the film’s central characters, Wilmer and Fernando, may not resonate with every viewer, there’s no doubt that the larger story is known to many of us, both in the US and abroad…drugs bring forth destruction. Interestingly enough, some of the most beautiful scenes of Colombia’s impressive landscape are seen in this contemporary film.

IQG, there’s another South American film about gangs in beautiful settings. Try, City of God (Brazil, 2002).

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Mi vida loca (USA, 1993). The Los Angeles neighborhood Echo Park may not be what it was in the early 90’s, but the reality of LA gangs is far from only-in-the-movies. Fearless writer and director Allison Anders sets out to tell the story of two best friends, Mousie and Sad Girl, who, born into and struggling in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood are pressured to adhere to the violent, strict, unrelenting rules of gang culture. Anders did in fact use real gang members, and the film stands out for its sharp, unpenetrable and immediate portrayal of female street gangs in a world dominated by men. Mi vida loca also keeps your attention for the way in which it treats themes of loyalty, friendship and sacrifice. Don’t expect Boyz in da’ Hood, cause there’s nothing Hollywood about this film.

IQG, female gangs? Try, Shadows of a Leader: Qaddafi’s Female Bodyguards (UK/ USA, 2004).

Disclaimer: Titles in spanish generally only capitalize the first word and proper nouns, such as in my new book, Yo soy un dorko.

Next week on I, Queue Genius: Films about non-violent loners or something.

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