San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker Max Good (assistant producer, THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS) takes a distinctly different look at street art in his feature documentary directorial debut, focusing on anti-graffiti activists.
In VIGILANTE VIGILANTE, Good and producer Nate Wollman track down four men who have made it their missions to clean up their cities from graffiti in its various forms – artwork, tags, stickers, and posters – usually by painting over it. As a result, they’ve started to become condemned not only by graffiti artists whose work they destroy, but also by authorities and other critics who note that the anti-graffiti vigilantes are themselves engaging in the same behavior of their sworn nemeses. In 2008, Good noticed a particular back-and-forth battle being waged between one subject, known as “the Silver Buff” or “Buffman” (“buffing” is the term used to describe removing or painting over the street art), and graffiti artists in Berkeley and set out to get the story.
The filmmakers will conclude a Kickstarter campaign for post-production funding assistance in just over two weeks. At the time of this writing they have raised nearly a third of their $8000 goal, so they still will happily welcome contributions.
The film has a website and a Facebook page where fans can keep updated on the project’s progress.
In recent years, there have been a number of documentaries about graffiti/street art, notably BOMB IT, ROADSWORTH: CROSSING THE LINE, and EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. What interests me about VIGILANTE VIGILANTE is its presentation of the POVs of not just people who view graffiti as vandalism, but of people who are so incensed by what they perceive as blight that they are moved to actively combat it. The fact that their own behavior then puts them outside of the law makes it even more intriguing. The debate around whether graffiti is or isn’t a valid form of artistic expression takes on an added layer through their actions: Does a third party have the right to intervene if the police or the owners of the so-called vandalized property choose to do nothing? How does one deal with being called a law breaker when he is actually trying to enforce the law as a private citizen?