Sunday, November 21, 2010

BRICK CITY - A Real-Life Version of "The Wire"

I'm honestly not sure how I missed this when it originally aired on the Sundance channel, but for the past few weeks I've been riveted watching Brick City, a powerful....I truly hesitate to use the term "reality series", because I think it cheapens the real let's say it's a 5-hour, 5-part documentary by award-winning filmmakers Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin.

Entertainment Weekly described it as a real-life version of The Wire and I have to concur. It's an unprecedented look at the inner-workings and heart of a troubled urban city. I've been watching it on Netflix streaming and I'm only on part 4 of 5, but I've enjoyed it so much and been so moved and fascinated that I had to share now.

The doc basically shifts between four main storylines - the inner-workings of Mayor Cory Booker's office, the Newark Police department's effort to curb its notoriously high murder rate, the fate of Central High a tough inner-city school and the personal life of gang members trying to go legit and mentor a new generation. Each in their own way is trying to reform their slice of a very rough and corrupt city against overwhelming odds.

It is at once depressing, heart-wrenching, insightful, inspiring and most of all - real. There don't seem to be any easy answers to the tough questions this doc examines without blinking, but I guarantee you can't look away.

It's also worth noting that the doc was beautifully shot on the Sony EX-1. Read more on the hi-def cinematography HERE.

Another great doc that touches on similar subject matter - the fate of the city of Newark - is Marshall Curry's, Street Fight, is a perfect warm-up film before watching this series and a powerful doc in it's own right.

Together, these documentaries paint a stunningly intimate portrait of an American city in crisis and the real people who are doing battle to save it and navigate the politics of a sick system. Docs like these are why I truly love the genre.