In Lisanne Skyler’s effective if not very enjoyable documentary of South Central Los Angeles two years after the riots, a black-owned pawnshop and currency exchange serves as a metaphor for life in the neighborhood. In repeated shots from behind the counter, people cash checks, look at handguns, pawn jewelry, and borrow such small sums as $25 with six months to repay. These transactions seem to lead nowhere, underlining the hopelessness that many residents feel: a young man would like to work but has a criminal record; business owners describe their difficulties in getting loans; gang members make new graffiti. Providing a troubling counterpoint to the more articulate businesspeople, a former crack addict is more disturbing for her nervous, staccato speech than for anything she says–the out-of-control way her words spill out speaks volumes. Though the film offers no solutions, its juxtaposition of those who feel trapped with others who’ve surmounted the odds suggests how feeling victimized can be a dead end. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Friday, March 29, 8:00, 384-5533.

–Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.