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Christiana Roberts


NYC in the 1970’s was a volatile city teetering on the edge of total chaos which was to become the stage for a spontaneous, progressive music and art movement that  continues to influence the world today.

Title: Style Wars

Director: Tony Silver, co-produced by Henry Chalfant

Year of release: 1983

Running Time: 79 minutes                                                    

In 1983 Silver & Chalfant produced a documentary known as Style Wars, which provided full immersion into the hip-hop phenomenon that had taken over New York City. The film is aptly titled, summing up the nature of the times: despite the difficult situation the city was in, people were jostling to get ahead of it, and express themselves in any way they could, with style.

Style Wars, won the Grand Prize for a documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS. It served as an unprecedented and unique insight into the early beginnings of hip-hop culture; specifically the graffiti writers, who were bringing a new form of art to the masses, via the New York subway system.

New York in the 1970’s was a volatile city teetering on the edge of total chaos. A collapsed economy, crime, corruption, widespread poverty and the cost of the war was crushing the city. When the City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bailout, the then President Gerald Ford warned that a bailout would set a “dangerous precedent” and demanded that the city face its “day of reckoning”. The now infamous Daily News headline spelled it out: “Ford to City - Drop Dead”. Just as a Pheonix comes to the end of one life cycle, ignites and is reduced to ashes from which a new, young and vibrant Pheonix is reborn, NYC rose out of the of the economic and social strife of this tumultuous time, and a family of sub-cultures and movements which would forever change and shape the world began to emerge. In an unprecedented creative cultural explosion the spontaneous, progressive musical and art culture that grew out of the tough Bronx neighborhoods of the 1970s led to a renaissance of poetry, music, and fashion. 
The collective output of this time, continues to play a prominent and influential role today.

Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant gave viewers a firsthand account of the birth of this movement though an in-depth look into the lives of artists representational of the times; the adversity  they faced, the bonds that held them together and some adventures along the way. 

City Pages describes Style Wars as “A unique and unforgettable look at the romance of anonymous fame: kids risking their lives to go ‘all city,’ hurdling high-voltage third rails and wedging themselves between moving train cars to get their names in large letters, zooming through other neighborhoods.

Want to see for yourself?

▶ ▷ ▸ ▹ Watch Style Wars : HERE