Monday, April 22, 2013

Reflections on "Snow on tha Bluff"

 So, in class a few days ago, Dayna referred us to a movie called “Snow on the Bluff”, and I had some time on my hands so I thought I'd watch it on Netflix. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the movie, it follows the life of Curtis Snow, an Atlanta gangster who lives in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Atlanta, the Bluff, after he steals a camera from a few college kids looking to buy drugs off of him. From there we become privy to “everyday” life on the bluff. We see Curtis's drug raids, his drive-bys, and his angry moments but we also see the care he has for his community and his family.

The opening scene of the movie is brilliant. It starts from the point of view of the college kids that originally bought the video camera. The first line is, “No, I wouldn't want to raise my kids in Georgia” and sets up the movie as directly against this entitled, college-kid culture. The insertion of these college kids does not take up a lot of time, but it contextualizes the movie. By showing these other college kids, the movie makes it harder for viewers to trivialize the events of the movie by thinking, “well, that's just how life is in this world” because there are people who don't live like that.

I also think it is important that it originally sets up Curtis as “the bad guy”. In the first scene he robs these kids, and the emotional impact of that scene is multifaceted. On the one hand, I think it is natural to feel bad for the kids, and that emotional reaction is later brought into question. The viewer must ask if there is a difference in emotional response between watching the kids get robbed and watching Curtis and his family suffer, and if there is a difference, then why? On the other hand, it identifies Curtis as he would be seen by society, as some nameless bad guy. The movie brings him a humanity that is marginalized by the mainstream parts of society and specifically white society.

What makes this movie so affecting is how real and surreal it feels simultaneously. While watching, I was constantly questioning the veracity of the film; was Curtis Snow a real guy, or an actor? Were those real guns and deaths, or were they dramatized? These, I think, are not the right questions, but they are the questions that an audience who has never experienced gang life will ask. What I personally need to recognize is that “Snow on Tha Bluff” seems surreal to me because it is very far removed from the things I experience on a day to day basis. I am luck to not have to experience the level of violence that is so common place in “Snow on The Bluff”.

I would highly recommend this movie, and I thank Dayna for pointing me towards it. Watching it was a crazy experience. A few questions I would like to ask the class: Do you think movies like “Snow on Tha Bluff” should have a social justice imperative? What role do you think the question of reality and our understanding of reality plays in interpreting the film? And, if you've watched it, how do you feel about the film's portrayal of violence?


  1. Becca,

    While watching this film I had similar questions however, I watched it from a different view point. I don't feel bad or sympathetic for the college kids who were robbed. If your are going to buy drugs in a neighborhood that is unfamiliar, it is in your best interest to use better judgement and commonsense. This is not at all a justification for the action.

    The main themes that stood out to me were history repeating itself and making survival choices. It was apparent that Curtis cared for his son although he wasn't physically involved everyday with the child. While watching his son Curtis explained that when he was younger his uncle would be packing the drugs in the same scenario with his son. Curtis grew up with an understanding of what's normal. He may have also internalized the idea that being a drug lord was a successful way to support his family.

    The Bluff neighborhood has clear signs of poverty and limited job opportunities. Therefor selling drugs was a popular way to provide and protect his family with the little resources that were available to him. The film alludes to the idea that individuals are very much a product of their environment.

  2. Comment by Matthew:
    I recently watched Snow on tha Bluff on Dayna’s recommendation as well. I thought the movie was awesome, but that being said it obviously is very problematic as well, and raises a lot of issues surrounding race, poverty and crime. The Bluff stands for “Better Leave You Fucking Fool” and is recognized as one of the 5 most dangerous neighborhoods in the United States. The fact that Curtis is a real stick-up boy/drug dealer that wanted the director to make a movie about his life is wild.

    The viewer feels like they are watching a documentary, reminding them that although this does not document historic events it is not a Hollywood tale, and rather deals with reality. It is also important that Curtis and his crew are the ones filming. A) they are not on camera surveillance by police, b) they are choosing what they want to show, and C) they are more than willing to show the life they are living

    Becca, you said you were lucky to not have to experience this type of violence, and I completely agree with you. I’m also thinking back to a conversation we had about the marathon bombers, when someone mentioned that much worse acts of violence were taking place in Syria at the time, and I said something along the lines of ‘well, that’s what expected in Syria, that’s what happens on a daily basis. Some might hear about the tales of Snow on tha Bluff and other similar hood tales and say “oh that’s what happens in the ghetto”. While the film is not a documentary and is dramatized, it certainly reflects a reality in which many have to live.

    I agree with Denise though that I never really saw Curtis as the bad guy, I think he is very much the protagonist even when he takes the camera. For those familiar with The Wire Curtis’ character demands the same respect as Omar Little.
    I would certainly say the film has a social justice imperative, and is not glorifying dealing drugs, but is rather demonstrating that
    Curtis is smart, and not really a bad person. If the acts he commits in the movie seem horrific, they also remind the viewer that he is a human, and that based on the situation that humans are born into they will do certain things…


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