12 O'Clock Boys
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12 O’Clock Boys

Like The Wire, but with wheelies.

DIRECTED BY LOTFY NATHAN (USA, International Spectrum)
stars 3andahalf9


Monday, April 29, 8:15 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Wednesday, May 1, 1:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Saturday, May 4, 9:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

“They call them 12 O’Clock Boys because they drive the bikes straight back, like the hands of the clock. If you get to 12 o’clock, you the shit—you know you in the pack.”

So enthuses Pug, subject of Lotfy Nathan’s compelling debut documentary about the urban dirt-bike gangs whose daredevil antics have become the bane of Baltimore motorists. The notorious packs are also thorns in the side of the city’s police, who, despite the riders’ deliberate goading, are forbidden to give chase. Yet, to Pug, the outlaw riders are role models, setting a relatively positive example in a high-crime environment where, as one veteran of the scene suggests, young people quickly “learn the right ways to do all the wrong shit.”

Shot over a period of three years, 12 O’Clock Boys observes Pug’s transformation from a wide-eyed, pre-teen wannabe into an unruly adolescent, intent on joining the riders’ ranks and increasingly heedless of his single mother’s admonishments. While the film doesn’t shy away from depicting the sometimes-fatal fallout of the gangs’ high-speed showboating, Nathan largely presents events from Pug’s perspective, and repeatedly emphasizes the gangs’ allure via lyrical slow-motion flourishes.

Given the bleak prospects shared by many Baltimore youths, the evident risks provide little in the way of deterrence. On the contrary, Nathan artfully demonstrates that, for Pug and others like him, the prestige of pack membership and its promise of freewheeling rebellion are dangerously difficult to resist.

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