Movie Review for: Snow on Tha Bluff
One of the most controversial films released in the 21st century has to be Snow on Tha Bluff. In 2011, the Sundance Film Festival showed the film where it received rave reviews from viewers. This movie was so shocking and compelling that it inspired me to write my first movie review. I consider myself a movie connoisseur, especially when it comes to documentaries. Despite all of the great documentaries I have seen, this one absolutely blew me away. The setting for the movie takes place in a notorious, West Atlanta housing project nicknamed “Tha Bluff.” Like many lower-income communities located in big cities, Tha Bluff is contaminated by drugs, violence, poverty, and hopelessness. This environment is where the main character of the film, Curtis “Curt” Snow, has lived his entire life. The audience is introduced to Curt by three college kids driving through the streets of Atlanta searching for pills and cocaine. One of the college students is filming their adventure when they pull over and wait for someone to walk up and sell them drugs. Who do they meet? Curt is their drug dealer for the day.
As soon as the college students meet Curt, their lives and his will never be the same. During the rest of the film, you don’t see the college students anymore. But you do see Curt with their camera filming his everyday life in Tha Bluff. This is when the action begins, and it doesn’t stop until the end of the movie. Curt eventually turns the camera over to his friend Poncho to film his every move. I first found it difficult to characterize Curt. Is he a drug dealer or an armed robber? Yes! That was the first question I had watching this documentary. One minute Curt is robbing someone for drugs. The next minute he is selling the stolen drugs to someone else. All of his robberies and drug deals are being recorded by Poncho. When Curt gave the camera to Poncho to start filming, he told him “don’t stop that camera for nothing. I don’t care if there’s a robbery, rape, or murder. Keep that camera rolling!” After a while I finally characterized Curt as an opportunist. If he found an opportunity to get money fast, then he had no hesitation in taking that opportunity.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, this film is raw and uncut. There were no actors in it. Everyone in the movie play themselves with no scripts. Since Curt is actually committing crimes on camera, he and his director, Damon Russell, have stated some of the scenes have been “staged.” That was one of the most compelling aspects of watching this movie. You don’t know where real life ends and the acting starts. In my opinion very little, if any, of this film was acting or scripted. Curt is actually robbing, shooting at people, and selling drugs the entire film. When you first see Curt commit his first robbery, it might leave you to believe he is an evil, selfish person who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. After you see the scenes where he interacts with his son and talks about all of the love ones he has lost to drugs and violence, you realize he is simply a product of his environment. How could this be possible in America today? With all the opportunities in this great country, there is no excuse for not making it the honest way. But that’s just it. Are there opportunities for everyone in this country? For Curt and his friends in Tha Bluff, I couldn’t see how they could take another path with all of the destruction and despair around them.
During the movie you do get to see several examples of repercussion from Curt’s actions. The main source for Curt’s misfortunes was the antagonist in the film named “White Hat.” White Hat was one of the first victims of Curt’s robbery spree, except he did not forgive or forget. No one in the movie knew the gentleman’s name. That’s why they kept referring to him as “White Hat.” This guy would not leave Curt alone. He kept coming back and back for revenge. A serious moment of foreshadowing takes place in the film when Curt visits his grandmother. She was a sweet God-fearing lady who told Curt his lifestyle was going to get him killed or in jail. His grandmother wasn’t far from the truth when Curt runs into his antagonist, shortly after his visit with her.
Curt didn’t learn his lesson from his first dispute with White Hat and sets off a turn of events that were very shocking and disturbing to say the least. This movie has so many twists and turns that it keeps you on the edge of your seat. One of the biggest twists in the film is when Curt has a flashback to his past. While he’s sitting at the kitchen table cutting up rock cocaine, he notices his son (who is only 2) is standing by the sink watching everything he does. It was appalling enough that his son is watching him breakdown cocaine boulders, but what was even more disturbing is when Curt remembers his uncle doing the same thing in front of him. While Curt is reminiscing on his childhood experience of watching his uncle cut up dope, the camera focuses in on Baby Curt. I knew the exact thought the cameraman wanted the audience to ask. Is this going to be the same fate of Baby Curt? Will Baby Curt be able to break this cycle of destruction that has plagued his family? I immediately started praying for Baby Curt. The flashback of Curt seemed like foreshadowing for Baby Curt, and that is the last thing I want to see happen to this child.
The conclusion I made after watching this film might shock many. Ironically, I found myself inspired after watching Snow on Tha Bluff. There was only one thought that entered my mind after watching this film. If Curt can be a survivor in an urban battlefield of hell, then I can accomplish anything I set my mind to do. Even though Curt was facing some of the most deplorable conditions imaginable, he was incredibly optimistic. Regardless of how horrific the previous scene was, I would find myself laughing at a joke or funny moment Curt would have. This man was determined to keep a smile on his face some kind of way. Most people in his situation would have given up a long time ago, but Curt manages to fight through the pain and survive another day. His determination to make it by any means necessary is very apparent at the end. He makes one phone call that could change his life forever. This is a film that I would recommend everyone see. It explains in graphic detail what life is like for an average person living in a poverty-stricken community. One of the most concerning thoughts I had about this film was that there are guys like Curt and children like Baby Curt living through this madness on a daily basis. I believe there is something that can be done to uplift communities like Tha Bluff. This film has motivated me to do my part to empower the disenfranchised. I have been inspired to keep writing and being a voice for the voiceless. Curtis Snow and Damon Russell did a great job putting this documentary together. If you want an eyewitness view of the rough and rugged streets of the inner city, then take a look through the camera lens of Curtis Snow.
Edgar Alan Cole, M.B.A.