SIP Trunking News

[October 02, 2006]

Street-fight DVD creates buzz online

(Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Oct. 2--The word girl is emblazoned in pink block letters across the back of the young woman's black shirt, but the rapid-fire punches she's throwing on camera are far from girlish.


She pummels her rival as a crowd gawks. There is no context for the violence, but her fighting skills are now immortalized, for better or worse, on a homegrown Columbus DVD titled The 614 Vol. 1, Strictly 4 Da Streets.

Named for the city's area code, the roughly 30-minute video shows a series of street fights. It's poorly shot and essentially plotless, but it has developed a following, apparently only a few weeks after being released.

"Ya'll are famous! That's great!" one poster wrote on the popular Web site MySpace.com, where information on the video is posted by its producer, Penoli Entertainment.

"Look, if you haven't seen it, or haven't been to Columbus in your life, COP THE DVD!! It's got some real certified material on it," another fan wrote.

Columbus police are among those who already have copped the DVD.

"My intelligence guys have had wind of this for months," said Lt. Richard Bash, of the division's strategic-response bureau.

Columbus isn't a pioneer of homegrown videos depicting inner-city violence. The Internet is flooded with such footage and similar DVDs have surfaced in large cities from San Francisco to Baltimore.

"Our appetite for violence, both to see and to participate in, I think hasn't changed for thousands of years," said Robert Thompson, a professor of television history and popular culture at Syracuse University. "It's that collection and distribution which really is the revolution."

Police suspect the producers are selling the DVD in bulk to neighborhood stores, which peddle it for about $5.

Excerpts also are posted on the popular video-driven Web site, YouTube.com, where one trailer has been viewed more than 18,000 times.

Whoever shot and produced the video -- a message left for the producers through MySpace was not answered -- likely hasn't done anything illegal, police said. The fights appear to be largely spontaneous.

"It doesn't appear that anything was instigated by the film crew," Bash said.

The combatants are breaking the law, though, and he said investigators and detectives have copies of the DVD. Participants theoretically could be identified, tracked down and charged, but police said they mainly plan to use the footage for intelligence purposes, to put together faces and places.

Police recognized some of the people, Bash said, but they're not "gang fights or anything like that."

From the bloodbaths that end Shakespeare plays to the horrific violence in The Iliad, people long have had an appetite for graphic brutality, Thompson said. Even television shows widely considered benign, such as America's Funniest Home Videos, have a sadistic bent, he said.

"There's always going to be an audience for this kind of stuff because, let's face it, violence is compelling to human beings," he said. "I don't think you necessarily have to be sick to find that appealing. It gives us a sense of part of Columbus most people probably don't even know. It is a document of the violence that goes on in a city."

And technology now makes it easy to spread such images.

"If anything more interesting than a sneeze occurs," Thompson said, someone is probably shooting pictures or video of it and putting it on the Web.

At New York Fashions on E. Livingston Avenue, employee Avis Skinner, 33, said local television's interest in and condemnation of the 614 DVD smacks of hypocrisy and bias in a culture where violence as entertainment sells on all fronts, from Jerry Springer to the Grand Theft Auto video game.

"I'm not condoning what's on the tape," she said. "It's not cute."

But she's most bothered, she said, that the public probably will write off the mostly black youths in the video as urban monsters rather than at-risk children from neighborhoods where violence is commonplace. Few probably think that they're worth saving, she said.

"Nobody wants a piece of helping these very same kids," she said. "We've been condemned as a people."

tdecker@dispatch.com

Copyright (c) 2006, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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