12 O’Clock Boys

 

12 O’Clock Boys

Directed by Lotfy Nathan

Produced by John Kassab, Lotfy Nathan & Eric Blair

Music by Joe Williams

Cinematography Lotfy Nathan

Edited by Thomas Niles

2013

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Mission Films & Prospekt

Video: Oscilloscope Labs

 

Video:

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD25

Bit Rate: High (ca. 29~34 Mbps)

Runtime: 75 min

Chapters: 14

Region: All

 

Audio

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English LPCM 2.0

 

Subtitles

Optional English

 

Extras:

  1. -Video commentary with director Lotfy Nathan

  2. -Pug, Coco & Steven featurette - in HD (18.30)

  3. -Phantom Footage Dreamscape - in HD (3:05)

  4. -“I’m A Grown-Ass Man” - in HD (2:30)

  5. -Pug & Coco outtakes - in HD (6:10)

-  Theatrical trailer

 

Presentation:

Custom Gatefold Case

Release Date: August 5, 2014



Synopsis [Oscilloscope]

The 12 O'CLOCK BOYS are a notorious urban dirt bike pack in Baltimore -- popping wheelies and weaving at excessive speeds through traffic, the group impressively evades the hamstrung police. In Lotfy Nathan's wild, dynamic documentary (three years in the making), their stunning antics are envisioned through the eyes of young adolescent Pug - a bright kid from the Westside obsessed with the riders and willing to do anything to join their ranks. Premiering to critical acclaim at the SXSW and Hot Docs Film Festivals (where Nathan won the HBO Emerging Artist Award), 12 O'CLOCK BOYS provides a compelling and intimate personal story of a young boy and his dangerous, thrilling dream.


           

 

The Movie : 7

Critical Reaction:

NPR

"This is our tradition, our culture, our release."

 So says one of the 12 O'Clock Boys — a large group of dirt bike and ATV enthusiasts who, depending on your perspective, either grace or terrorize the streets of Baltimore each Sunday with acrobatic feats on their motorbikes. They weave through the city traffic, popping extended wheelies, the line of their bikes almost at vertical, approximating the hands of a clock at noon. This is the story of a struggle against inner-city adversity, one talented child finding his escape, avoiding gang life through a potentially more positive, less violent community tradition, right? But Nathan's film defies easy categorization; he's interested in neither telling that fairy tale nor painting issues in broad strokes. . .challenging the viewer to jump into the gray area between.


           

 

Nathan spends most of his first-person camera time with Pug [as he develops from age 12-16] and the riders, and it's from that side that he gets the "tradition, culture and release" side of the story. From them, too, comes the argument that riding keeps these young men out of gangs; when you ride a bike, it "makes you neutral" in the eyes of Baltimore's gang factions, explains one rider.  . . The documentary [shows] a huge amount of transformation over its relatively brief running time. And not all of it is positive. Early on we see a child who's too often wandering unsupervised, wistfully watching a gathering of riders he's still too young to join, his desperate desire for acceptance all over his face. Over the three years, though, we see that face and demeanor harden, as Pug adopts the rituals of a boy acting like a man. He talks remorselessly about beating up a kid at school. He barks sullenly at the filmmaker he used to perform enthusiastically for. He kicks at his dog. And is it any wonder? Nathan's film gets at a difficult and sobering fact: Pug's world is one that often rewards only hard detachment and distrust. That's a cultural tradition perhaps even more entrenched than the dirt bikes, and one from which it's more difficult to find release.  –  Ian Buckwalter


           

 

Times-Picayune

When he grows up, Pug wants to be a veterinarian. Given his blend of brains and gumption, he'll probably be a good one, too -- if, that is, he is lucky enough to grow up. Even at 13 years old, Pug knows that's no guarantee for those growing up on the streets of inner-city Baltimore.  "You could die any minute" . . . So in the meantime, he's going to enjoy life. That means working toward his goal. . . of becoming a member of the 12 O'Clock Boys, as chronicled in director Lotfy Nathan's fascinating and briskly paced new documentary of the same name, offering viewers a thrillingly reckless ride through inner-city Baltimore.  Not so much a gang as a loose confederation of dirt-bike riders, the 12 O'Clock Boys take their name from their well-honed skill at riding through Baltimore's streets en masse and hotdogging by pulling wheelies so high that their bikes cruise around nearly perpendicular to the asphalt.


           

 

If that sounds dangerous, it's because it is dangerous. It's very dangerous, in fact, not only because of the stunts involved but because the riders without fail draw the attention of police. Indeed, they beg for the attention of police. The resulting high-speed escapes set the table for inevitable injuries to riders and -- occasionally -- to bystanders.  But if the riders are a menace, as many brand them, they come across in 12 O'Clock Boys as a gleeful, spirited menace. Besides, one must think, there are far greater dangers for young black men in Baltimore to navigate than road hazards. If their dirt-bike mischief keeps them from gangbanging and drug dealing, there are those who are willing to look the other way, even as racist rants fill the talk-radio airwaves. – Mike Scott


           

 

Slant Magazine

"These kids are just little bastards. These aren't nice kids...I don't care if they get hurt; frankly, I don't care if one of them dies." Thus speaks an anonymous voice on the soundtrack during the opening shot of 12 O'Clock Boys, angrily spouting off against the inner-city Baltimore kids who roam around town on their dirt bikes. The way he articulates his frustrations sounds appalling on the face of it, and one assumes, based on the first half-hour of Lotfy Nathan's documentary, that the rest of the film would be a straight-up repudiation of such insensitivity, delving into the often troubled personal lives of some of these riders in order to suggest the circumstances that lead them to take up this technically illegal activity in the first place. But the deeper Nathan dives into this subculture, the more intriguingly conflicted his attitudes become.


           

 

Throughout its brisk 75 minutes, 12 O'Clock Boys constantly divides itself between fulfilling the conventions of the informational talking-heads documentary and aiming for a more poetically impressionistic quality, especially whenever the film turns its camera back to Pug. While Nathan takes care to fill us [sic] put this dirt-biking subculture in context, filling us in on its history and deeper cultural resonance for participants and spectators alike, he also indulges in lengthy stretches of simply observing people in action, whether biking or simply living their ramshackle lives.


           

 

12 O'Clock Boys embodies an internal tug of war of sorts between Pug's—and, perhaps by extension, Nathan's own—impulse to valorize the freedom these bikers exude, and more grounded realizations that, as much as Pug might want to believe otherwise, there's more to life than becoming part of an illegal, roving biker gang and achieving that "12 o'clock" pinnacle. It's fitting, then, that the film's final image—a repeat of its first, except with different implications this time—suggests something more ambiguous than the coming-of-age maturation one might expect: a personal triumph that's also quite possibly a dead end  – Kenji Fujishima


           

 

Image: 5~8

Typical of documentaries and low-budget doc’s in particular where footage is garnered from a variety of sources, including archival news clips, nighttime shots and material from less than HD cameras, 12 O’Clock Boys has its share of compromised scenes. While some of this adds to the feeling of a fly-on-the-wall, life-slicing view of Baltimore’s inner city, the persistence of snatch and grab footage, never quite knowing what the subject will do or where he or they will be, can be a bit wearing. After a while I became aware that most of the pans of the riders were done from the same vantage point, doubtless the only one, on a knoll that allowed a view of the riders passing by longer than a few yards running. I wanted clips of longer than two seconds, which was about all it took for the bikers to traverse a city block or so.


           

 

Audio & Music: 8/9

Oscilloscope offers two uncompressed audio tracks: stereo and surround, the latter effective in the beginning where crowd sounds envelopes the viewer and whenever the soundtrack held court. Dialog, voiceover narration, music and clips form news and police reports are expertly managed and balanced. Missing is the true whining roar of a dozen or so bikes cruising along on city streets.


           

 

Extras: 8

Oscilloscope’s usual breadth of bonus features is on display here, with a feature length commentary by the director, Lotfy Nathan; featurettes focusing on Pug, his mother, Coco, and Steven, the local man behind the scenes and in front of the camera who helped Nathan get close to the riders. Also on board is a short music video of sorts titled “I’m A Grown-Ass Man,” a three-minute clip assembling most or all of the slow-mo footage from the documentary, and several minutes worth of extended scenes not in the movie. (My favorite shows an underage Pug trying to get gold “fronts” for his teeth.)  All the these are shown in HD and, except the music video, have voiceover narration by Nathan. The only thing conspicuous by its absence is a feature that takes the position against the riders.


           

 

Recommendation: 8

Anyone who has seen and loved HBO’s The Wire will want to see this. In fact, it’s hard not to think of that series no matter the scene or mood. The city is the same, as is the respect and complex veneration of the filmmakers. Pug himself reminds us of Namond Brice on the one hand and “Snoop” Pearson on the other (both figure prominently in Season 4.) 12 O’ClockBoys is a slice of life documentary, often more than a little rough around the edges technically, as with occasional out of focus shots and footage of actual speed riders limited to left-to-right pans of less than a city block. Even so, it is always engaging and ambiguous in equal measure. Recommended.

 

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

August 10, 2014


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