Bomb It 2 / Street Art Film

It’s been a little over five years since I reviewed Jon Reissdocumentary Bomb It, a film that I called “easily the best documentary on graffiti history and culture throughout the world that I have ever seen.” A bold statement, and one that illustrates the bar by which Reiss’ documentary sequel, Bomb It 2, would be measured by. And that’s not the least of it; there have been quite a few more films about street art and graffiti in the years since, including the wonderful Exit Through The Gift Shop and another personal favorite, Vigilante Vigilante, so the landscape for this type of documentary is all the more competitive.

Which is both fair and unfair, because Bomb It 2 is very much a sequel. It continues the exploration of graffiti culture in other parts of the world, and, frankly, it doesn’t fuck around. With nary a set-up or hand-holding, the documentary jumps right in, introducing you to artist Muhnned Alazzh and his works in the Al-Azza Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. You gain insight into the message behind his art, as well as the way in which he has to work, usually in a large group so that he and his fellow artists have ample lookouts to allow them to escape, should soldiers come around.

That is just the first stop on Bomb It 2‘s global art tour, and but one of roughly twenty-nine artists profiled in the seventy-two minute film. The film rockets through cities such as Hong Kong, Melbourne, Jakarta, Bethlehem, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Perth, Chicago and more, exploring the different styles and themes of the various artists. For some it’s about spreading political messages, for others it’s a form of meditation. Some seek to bring beauty to drab architecture, some are rebelling against the ever-present visual noise of brand advertising. It’s a ridiculous amount of information to absorb about so many different people, cities and art, yet it all comes together.

It’s fitting that the film feels much like an evening out tagging a wall, with its rapid fire delivery that, when you take a moment to step back and appreciate, truly shines. Again, this isn’t about slowly wading yourself into graffiti and street art culture, this is diving right in. If you want more of an overall education, you’ll need to find that elsewhere (check out Bomb It, for example), but if you already appreciate the art form, and want to expand your horizons globally, this film is like catnip.

Not to steal one artist’s whole theme, but it’s inspirational too. Depending on how you look at it, the artwork in the film could be something that is borne of a haphazard need to express something, or the unbridled talent to create something memorable, or even the result of years of just creating anything. It can feel intimidating to see something writ large in bold colors and think, “there’s no way I’m capable of something like that” but, in truth, you, and I, are probably far more capable than we imagine. Many of these artists are working from instinct, and you’d be surprised what you can come up with if someone gives you a spray can or teaches you how to do a quick stencil.

Especially when you consider that it’s not just about writing your name in an extravagant fashion, or drawing a kooky cartoon. It’s about text, or about portraiture, or post-ups, or really anything you want to get across in a public space. Maybe it’s a message, maybe it’s just a color.

Which can still cause great debate. While this film touches on the various illegalities of street art in certain places (three offenses will get your ass caned in Singapore), it also touches on cultural consequences. In the case of artists painting on the apartheid wall in Bethlehem, the topic divides those in the area as much as the physical structure does. Some find the artwork as something that keeps the wall relevant in the local and international media, thus keeping it as a topic of conversation. Others see it as a distraction, and want the ominous, oppressive grayness of the wall to remain, to remind people that the wall, and what it stands for, is an ugly thing.

In the end, does Bomb It 2 bump its predecessor as “easily the best documentary on graffiti history and culture throughout the world that I have ever seen”? No, but it admirably continues the journey, and I think both films are essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in street art. If you’re wondering how you can see this film, filmmaker Reiss is, as of this writing, in the final days of his Kickstarter campaign to fund the distribution of the film.

So it will be out there soon enough, and I strongly suggest you check out not just Bomb It 2, but also the original Bomb It. At the bare minimum, you learn something about graffiti history and culture around the world. At best, you may be inspired to do some of your own work. It’s as much a reference documentary as it is an appreciation piece or inspirational experience.