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LAist at Sundance: A Great Doc Day

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Photo courtesy of dmax3270 via flickr

While the features and shorts at Sundance are occasionally hit or miss, the documentaries are always strong across the board. Yesterday, I was able to see two that I have had my eye on since the festival schedule was originally released: Made in America by Stacy Peralta and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden by Morgan Spurlock. Considering all the frantic back-and-forths I've been doing since last Friday, it was a blessing that these two awesome documentaries were screening right after each other at the same theater.

Made in America tells the story of the rise of the two most notorious gangs in Los Angeles: the Crips and the Bloods. Through dozens of interviews with both current and former gang members on both sides, Peralta provides a clear glimpse into a violent, despairing world that is seldom seen. These interviews are fascinating in the way Peralta is able to extract true humanity from what most would consider stone-cold killers. What's more, his exploration of the history that preceded the formation of the gangs--the racist housing codes that established South Central Los Angeles, the collapse of the L.A. industrial base after World War II, the 1965 uprising in Watts--provides a framework wherein the origin of the Crips and Bloods can be more fully understood. Made in America is a documentary that everyone should see when it ultimately reaches theaters.

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Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Though concerned with an even more serious subject--international terrorism--Morgan Spurlock's Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden has a considerably more light-hearted touch. Picture this: one of the running characters in the documentary is an animated Osama covered in magical armor who is able to fly...fast! The title is a bit of a misnomer as the film is really about Spurlock traveling through the Middle East and talking with people about Osama, terrorism, Islam and America. There's really nothing new in the documentary--terrorism is a perversion of Islam, the Palestinian issue must be solved, America should leave the Middle East--but Spurlock's personality is infectious enough to keep you interested as the film moves from Morocco to Israel to Jordan to Afghanistan. Spurlock begins the documentary by saying he wanted to find Osama because he wanted to help create a safer world for his child to be born into. That the film concludes with live coverage of his son's birth was an unexpected, touching capstone.