We’ve been reporting on the progress of filmmaker Lotfy Nathan’s documentary on Baltimore’s dirt bike gangs, 12 O’Clock Boys, for a while now. We cheered the movie on as it got picked to screen at SXSW, snagged a distribution deal, and got more and more buzz. So it’s nice to see that major media outlets — NPR, The Atlantic, the New York Times, among others — are finally catching on. Here’s what they have to say:
From the Atlantic:
Were people ever opposed to your presence with a camera?
Absolutely, sometimes I would get a little overzealous. Looking back now, I can’t believe how foolish I was. Basically shoving my camera into everybody’s face. One time I was filming at Pug’s, mostly with kids, and four or five guys that were on a nearby stoop suddenly surrounded me. They thought I was filming a drug deal. But generally, when I would say I was filming the dirt bike riders there was almost an instant acceptance, like I was with Robin Hood and his band of merry men.
While the bikes serve as an escape, it also seems like riding can be incredibly dangerous. Did you feel like that was something that needed to be covered in the film?
[It] is a situation that is hugely full of contradictions. It’s simultaneously wholesome and meaningful, but also reckless and destructive.
It depends what side you look from. What is important, is that in the context of the city, it is actually constructive for some of these kids. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but that’s just a reality. Marginalized communities will react to certain conditions, and they are just going to need to do something. Kids like Pug need a renegade outlet. It has to be rebellious but at the same time it could be a lot worse.
On what it’s like when the 12 O’Clock Boys roll down the street:
It’s a chaotic experience. … I first saw it on the periphery. I saw them tearing down the street. I had no idea what they were about. A lot of people in Baltimore — depending on what neighborhood you’re in — don’t know what they’re about. … Their presence on the street, you know, they’re extremely loud, huge pack. … I thought they were kind of bandits, or something, pirates. You know, some of them have these bandanas on their face; they certainly look intimidating from the outside. And it’s all about the noise and the presence, you know. They really take over the whole city.
As the project grew and added crew members, the shots became more elaborate and artful. The cameraman John Benam brought his experience with National Geographic Television and Film, as well as a camera that could record a high number of frames per second to create dreamlike slow-motion images.
Using bungee cords, the crew strapped Mr. Benam inside a metal cage in the back of a truck while, Steven navigated the vehicle among the bikers.
“Dealing with the police, I had to be really adaptive,” [Nathan] said. “One day, I would play a naïve college kid who didn’t know any better. The next day, maybe I would say I was with HBO documentary films.” Mr. Nathan and Steven received court summonses for “filming illegal activity,” but Mr. Nathan said they were thrown out.
Read more coverage from Rolling Stone, VICE, etc.. And now, finally, you can watch the movie yourself! It opens on Friday and will screen at MICA’s Falvey Hall, as well as the AMC theater in Owings Mills. And if you’re too lazy to leave the comfort of your own home, check it out on video on demand.
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