21 Aug
Documenting Bronx Street Gang Culture


I’m no cinephile, so maybe Flyin’ Cut Sleeves is already a cult classic. I’ve never heard of it. And I’m not sure it ever really came out. The film was completed in ’93, though. The project grew out of the experiences of Rita Fecher, the film’s co-producer (together with Henry Chalfant, Style Wars fame), who taught in a South Bronx school in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and became intimately involved with the gangs, their leaders and the leaders’ families and began to document their lives. Life in the streets, set against a backdrop of uprooted families, cultural alienation, drugs and violence—at the time when organizations like the Black Panthers and Young Lords Party influenced the young gang leaders to aspire to be more than warriors and to become, to some degree, a positive force in their communities. Sounds intensely incredible. To me, the greatest thing about this documentary is the fact that it spans a 20-year period. When Rita Fecher returned after two decades to see what had become of her old friends, she found that they had stayed in the community of their youth, that they were deeply committed to improving conditions there and that they were engaged in helping their own children survive in the hazardous street environment. The documentation of these lives over a twenty-year period offers a remarkable perspective on life in the ghetto (spanning four generations), and the means that people devise to cope from the time that they are rebellious children to when they serve as parents and role models for a new generation. Wow.

The 60-minute documentary  will be out on DVD October 20th via Sleeping Dogs Films and MVD Visual.

Leave a Reply