Rampage is the middle film in a trilogy by Australian filmmaker George Gittoes. The first Soundtrack of War looked at how music plays a part in US army life in Iraq. Rampage follows Elliot Lovett, a very gifted young rapper who Gittoes met while he was serving in Iraq, back to the Brown Sub project he comes from in Miami, an area that the Lovett believes is way more dangerous than Baghdad. From this point Gittoes plays everything by ear and enters the Lovett family world where Elliot’s equally talented brothers try to survive in what is basically a war zone in America’s backyard. Death, however, has a way of surprising everyone and Gittoes follows this close family through grief and their attempts to escape the ghetto.
This leisurely, impassioned and genuinely moving film takes equal influence from Steve James Hoop Dreams and Nick Broomfield’s Biggie and Tupac. The trouble is that Gittoes is a kindly if awkward and unnatural presence in his own film, for at least half the film he clumsily bumbles around in search of an angle and when he finds one it almost seems to overwhelm him. This is, however, a raw portrait of the struggles of the US underclass at this time of war and repression. Despite its community video feel and cheesecake Hip Hop euphoria it’s still a bold attempt to really examine US street music and the machinations of the companies that are trying to translate it into dollars. As a state of the nation snap shot it deserves to be bracketed alongside Spike Lee’s much feted Hurricane Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke.
Odeon Fort Kinnaird, Edinburgh from Fri 24 Nov.