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Graffiti explores nature of urban art, artists

Review by Monica Pleuler, staff writer


In a subtle analysis of isolation and the need for companionship, the Graffiti Artist explores the relationship between two teenage graffiti artists united by their desire for self-expression. The American film debuted at HIFF, the Honolulu International Film Festival.


The main character, Nick, AKA “Rupture,” a graffiti artist, is a loner. His artistic tagging gets him in trouble with the law in Portland, Oregon, so he moves to Seattle, where he meets Jesse, AKA, “Flip,” another tagger.

Throughout the film, the boys create towering murals in a process that demonstrates how united they are. The main characters develop a relationship with each other that is portrayed with minimum dialogue.

Beneath this simple story, the director, James Bolton, makes a political point. The film is set in Oregon, a state that enforces a mandatory jail sentence for graffiti. Bolton’s cinematic artistry goes deep into the consciousness of the “tagger” and graffiti artist subculture.

The issues the two boys have with each other are never confronted because the movie is less about their relationship, and more about the great artist Nick is, and to what limits he will go to practice it

The Graffiti Artist is a great film to see. The film tells its story not with narration or dialogue, but through the emotional intimacy of the protagonists. Nick does what most people would love to do; he lives without compromises, even though he has to pay an enormous price for this freedom. He goes to jail, and he sleeps on the streets. He shows that a self-determined life is possible and refuses to adapt to common social structures and strictures.

The two lead actors Rubie Snellman (Nick) and Pepper Fajans gave convincing and sensitive performances that were heightened by an excellent soundtrack, by Kid Loco.

Like the graffiti the two boys produce, the film may not be for everyone, but for anyone who is open-minded and curious about the relationship of an artist to his work; this film is not to be missed.


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