Words By Zoe Zorka
As the legendary Sundance Film Festival draws to a close, the spotlight has been on some of the best documentaries of the year. Yet few capture the true essence of a generation as well as Can’t Be Stopped, one of this year’s major indie documentary breakouts that seamlessly weaves together the union of art, hip-hop, and culture as told through the lens of major graffiti artists of the last 30 years.
Produced by breakout producer and director Cody Smith, Can’t Be Stopped tells the story of the CBS crew, a rag-tag band of misfit graffiti artists, as they went from a loosely-organized borderline street gang to the pioneers of one of the most well-known art forms of the 20th century.
The story starts in Los Angeles in 1984 with Skate, a former high school loner who would go on to become a legendary graffiti artist, and his group of friends, who started “tagging” around Hollywood, which was an epicenter of blight and decay in the early 80’s. Soon Skate, who would become a surrogate father figure to many of his CBS members, began to team up with other loosely-formed graffiti artist groups and eventually, assembled CBS- a crew that transcended racial and class lines. From rich kids in Beverly Hills to those in the valley to kids from the streets of Compton, CBS members were white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and everything in between. Unlike most street gangs, this small, tight fraternal group of artists shied away from serious violence and their unity was based on the love of art, music, and each other.
The documentary follows the growth of graffiti as well as its influences as it migrated from New York City to Los Angeles and became a conduit for rebelling against the status quo and expressing one’s emotions and energy.
The documentary highlights the crew and movement’s triumphs, such as graffiti being coined the first representation of urban culture in magazines such as Ghetto Art, which later became Can Control in 1987 as well as the rise in popularity of the CONART clothing line, as well as it’s tragedies- most notably, Skate’s untimely death in 1993.
The documentary also mirrored the struggles of society, such as the ever-present threat of street gangs, the risk of police brutality, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Scott, a member of CBS in the later 1990’s, would later go on to earn a degree in film from Cal State Northridge. He chose to produce the film as a way to commemorate and archive what would go on to become a legitimate art genre. “I went to Santa Monica high school,” says Scott. “So I was in the culture. I looked up to CBS and all these amazing artists and hearing about Skate. The whole school was filled with graffiti. A high school janitor told me that “if you stand in one spot too long, they’ll tag you too.”
As Skate’s portrait remains memorialized on prominent L.A. buildings, it serves as a reminder to all that culture can’t be stopped- there will always be someone to make their tag on history.
For more information on availability and distribution, visit http://cantbestoppedthemovie.com/.