When director Tony Silver and co-producer Henry Chalfant delivered the broadcast version of their prize-winning film to PBS in 1983, the world received its first full immersion in the phenomenon that had taken over New Yor... more »k City. The urban landscape was physically transformed by graffiti artists who invented a new visual language to express both their individuality, and the voice of their community. In STYLE WARS, New York's ramshackle subway system is their public playground, battleground, and spectacular artistic canvas. Opposing them by every means possible are Mayor Ed Koch, the police, and the New York Transit Authority. Meanwhile, as MC's, DJ's and B-boys rock the city with new sounds and new moves, we see street corner breakdance battles turn into performance art. STYLE WARS has become an emblem of the original, embracing spirit of hip hop as it exploded into the world from underground tunnels, uptown streets, clubs and playgrounds. New York's legendary kings of graffiti own a special place in the hip hop pantheon. This film is regarded by many as the definitive document of the emerging hip hop culture, and the continuing struggle to keep its authentic spirit alive.« less
If only Wild Style could have gotten this kind of treatment.
-Paul E Kilianski--- | Power Kingdom, New York | 04/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I, like many, first saw Style Wars back in the early 80's on PBS as an impressionable youth who was just discovering Hip Hop in all it's forms. It has remained to this day, one of the best (certainly the most honest) accounts of Hip Hop in it's relative infancy. While the focus is squarely on the "writers" (graffiti artists for all you new jacks), we do get to see other aspects of Hip Hop culture in play (most notably b-boying with the Rock Steady Crew). Watching the film on dvd after so many years was literally like going back in time. It not only holds up, it has aged like fine wine. Every shot in the film reeks of NY & Hip Hop in the early 80's. A true, 100% bonafide classic in every sense of the word. The filmakers have succeeded beautifully in capturing the spirit of the time, the place, the people and the culture. This is a true time capsule if there ever was one.
Ok, enough with accolades. Now on to the disc. Dang. Talk about getting the deluxe treatment. Whereas the Wild Style DVD is incomplete (see my review), Style Wars is not only complete, uncut and un-altered, it is absolutely full to brim with fantastic extras...close to 4 HOURS worth. Highlights include art and interviews with many of the films participants. Most notable for me was MIN ONE. He's the tough little curly-haired, white kid who tries to get the rest of the writers to retaliate against Cap for "going over their burners". ("That's never forgive action"). All I can say is he looks like he's been through one hell of a lot in the last 20 years. Very sobering to say the least.
Other extras include outtakes, audio commentary by the filmakers, and (this is very cool) a 30 minute loop of "whole cars".
If you consider yourself a serious Hip Hop head, you have no excuse not to own this dvd."
Undisputed Heavyweight Champ of Hip-Hop Documentaries
Matthew Jaworski | Detroit, MI | 03/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1983; director Tony Silver, and producer Henry Chalfant dropped this bomb upon the unsuspecting (except for those lucky enough to live in NYC at the time) populus via PBS. The world was exposed to true urban art, and it's unlikely Picasso's- the bombers and taggers of NYC's resilient subway system. Not only that, but also to 'acrobatic body dances like breaking', and to rocking the mic. This is so much more than just a documentary about the evolution of graffiti. It is truly a time capsule, full of unforgettable characters, stuffy bureaucrats, and the chaotic urban landscape of early 80's NYC. There are so many memorable lines and incredible characters indelibly etched in my brain from this film. Just writing this review makes me want to run over to the DVD player and watch it over and over again. I would gladly pay the price of admission (approximately $25) just for the film. However, our good friends at Plexifilm have once again delivered the goods, including a staggering 3.5 hours of bonus footage to accompany this one-of-kind historical document. The bouns footage includes 32 artist galleries, interviews, trains, and ultra-rare photos from the best-of-the best, including: Skeme, Seen, Frosty Freeze, Dondi, Blade, Rammellzee, and many others. This is a must have document for Hip-Hop heads, historians, social anthropologists, and cool people. Buy this now and support good art."
James Rodriguez | Jersey City, NJ United States | 09/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's as if Style Wars co-star (and graffiti pioneer) Iz The Wiz was predicting the outcome of this classic documentary when he emphatically yelled:"This is it...this is it!" in one of it's scenes. Some 20 years later, the world over is echoing Iz's exact same sentiments. With Style Wars, creators Henry Chalfant and Tony Silver assembled one of the best and historiaclly correct Hip Hop documentaries to date. Taking place around '81, '82 during the Koch administration, Style Wars delves mostly into NY's subway graffiti and B-boy culture. By far, two of the more illustrious facets in the cultural jewel known as Hip Hop. Style Wars captures graffiti and B-boy pioneers (most in their teens) doin' what they do best and ultimately shaping the course of Hip Hop culture. All the "true-school" legends are here (i.e., The Rocksteady Crew, Dondi, Seen, Dez a.k.a. DJ Kay Slay, etc.) equipped with a vintage NY backdrop and killa soundtrack. As "fresh" as it was back in '84 when PBS "broke" it, Style Wars works because it not only deals with the creative forces behind it's subject matter, but those effected by it as well. From the linoleum kitchen of famed graffiti artist Skeme to the B-boy battlegrounds of the U.S.A. skating rink, Style Wars is there. With unforgettable scenes like dopey Mayor Ed Koch screwing-up at a press conference to graffiti legend Duro mispronouncing the word "negotiate", Style Wars captures it all. Celebrating it's 20th anniversary, Style Wars' recent double DVD release only adds to it's greatness. Packed with 4 hours of nothing but flavor, this double delight doesn't dissappoint. It would've been great to have seen graffiti great Kase 2 (or Noc) make the DVD, but the revisiting of Skeme and Mom Barbara (minus the kitchen) definitely makes up for it. So, if you're thinking of spending your hard earned on anything boasting unadulterated Hip Hop, Style Wars is a sure-shot. In the immortal words of Iz The Wiz: "This is it!" --James "Koe" Rodriguez."
What a great buy!
Christine E. Atkins | 03/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"you get so much bang for the buck with this DVD. Not only is the documentary fantastic, but the supplemental DVD has recent interviews with lots of the superstar graffiti artists, breakdancers, and rappers. Well worth the money!!!!!"
Great documentary on graffiti...
A. Ort | Youngstown, Ohio | 11/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The very fact that in the special features section there is an entire segment of photos of the cars that have been tagged with graffiti and the fact that the individuals who tagged the trains are presented, interviewed and paid homage to tells what a phenomenal slice of history this documentary is.
It was filmed during the time that these artists were doing their work and the ones still living are followed up with many years later. It really dives into the history and development of the phenomenon. Who can forget images of dirty big cities with the trains riding along with huge works of graffiti art on them? Someone was there to document it all. This film is a result of that work.
This is the story of it all. Interesting is the documenting of the lengths the authorities had to go to in order to control the "problem" (which, of course, is a matter of perspective). One of the artist is shown years later with his mother gleaming with pride and his mother, interviewed earlier in the film as well, still rolls her eyes at his pride.
The artists are interviewed, both then and now, and the connection of graffiti to hip-hop and B-boy culture is touched upon, although this is probably the weakest link in the film. Wild Style and The Freshest Kids take you deeper into the world of B-boys and Scratch takes you deeper into the world of hip-hop and the emergence of rap from it. But this is a great film on graffiti in its heyday."