Describing his own art, Glen laments how straights won’t be interested “cuz it’s nothing to do with them,” while gays won’t much fuck with it since there aren’t any cock shots to take in. His new lover laughs with a bit of aspirational knowingness—there’s a sense that he’s not as clued in to whatever intra-gay-scene problems Glen is diagnosing, but wants to learn all about them anyway. The moment feels painfully real and sweet, as does the film’s ending. Without spoiling what happens and how, it’s fair to say the pivot away from Linklater-style sentimentality leaves little room for a sequel hook-up a decade down the road.

Also too good to spoil are a pair of knockout docs about war zones and how they change American landscapes, rural and urban. Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer is Charlie Ahearn’s own deuce up in the sky just for hip-hop’s proto-shutterbugg. It starts out, to a worrying degree, with simple style-nostalgia: an itemized discussion of the hats and shoes in Shabazz’s recently rediscovered oeuvre. Though when Ahearn follows the observant Shabazz into Brooklyn barber shops to show his “back in the day” photos to descendants and survivors of the crack wars, the movie gets deep quick. Shabazz’s images morph from art-show fetish objects to oral history prompts that reveal a New York since scrubbed over by the new kind of old money that can’t wait to beat it out of town during the summer months.

Not everyone has the option of escaping battlefield heat, however. As captured by director Heather Courtney in Where Soldiers Come From, we see how a group of kids from Michigan turned National Guardsmen spend their last pre-Afghanistan weekend working on a massive spray-painted mural. It’s a purposeful, if temporally doomed, way of imposing their reality on the face of the country’s skyline.

BAMcinemaFest/Sundance Selects
Jamel Shabazz
BAMcinemaFest/Pow Wow Wow
Jamel Shabazz

Soon enough, the boys find themselves defusing IEDs (or not, occasionally). It’s as if Courtney was able to take the high-caliber cowboy horseshit out of The Hurt Locker—with its subtext that our warriors in harm’s way can’t feel anything anyway, so we might as well thrill to the adrenaline—without sacrificing the real white-knuckle risk. There’s a hard-won and heart-stopping bit of homecoming at a rural high school that’s worthy of Friday Night Lights. Courtney might have used that scene to end the movie, had she intended to be gentle with us. But she won’t stop there, in the best tradition of going hard. Brooklyn needs it.

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