Snow On Tha Bluff Takes an Uncensored Look At Atlanta Street Life
Completely blurring the lines between fictional found footage and reality, Damon Russel's Snow on Tha Bluff, is an entertaining and entrancing look at life in one of America's most dangerous neighborhoods: West Atlanta's "Tha Bluff" - an acronym for "Better Leave You Fucking Fool." Shot on location over the course of a year and a half, Tha Bluff follows real-life crack dealer and robber Curtis Snow as he slings and holds up other dealers all while trying to provide for his baby momma and two-year-old son.
The film is bookended with two staged moments to give it a found footage frame, but everything in between couldn't feel more authentic. There's next to zero narrative - most of our time is spent just hanging out with Curtis as he shows us around the neighborhood, converses with colorful characters, and gets high. The film is absent of any exploitative feel as the camera captures all the dirt with a non-judgmental eye. What loose narrative there is involves a feud between Curtis and another drug dealer who moves in on Curtis' turf. Known only as "White Hat" because of the obnoxious Kangol he wears, him and Curtis go back and forth in a deadly game of drive-bys and stand-offs.
Curtis is a charismatic motormouth who's very well-respected in the neighborhood. He's compassionate to those in his crew and to his family. In one of the film's more tender scenes, Curtis give us a tour of some of Tha Bluff's makeshift monuments to the dead, including where his brother and baby momma were killed. He visits his grandma, who insists he gets a real job and shows us some old family photos. Then it's back to the streets, to the parties, to the nights of violence. There's no tacked-on moral at the end or any visible retribution for Curtis. As he profoundly puts it to his baby momma: "Ain’t no right or no wrong way - there’s the need way.”
The filmmakers were advised by legal counsel not to disclose what parts of the film were staged and what was real (meaning some of it was real). The found footage style has fooled plenty of people though - there was a riot at the Atlanta Film Festival during its screening and the Atlanta PD contacted the filmmakers because of some break-ins shown in the film. The crew was stopped by police and searched several times during filming. They had to spend the night in jail once and resumed filming the next morning. Curtis really street bowls in the movie. When was the last time you saw authentic street bowling on film? Real people get really arrested on camera and one man even got stabbed - making every other indie film crew in the nation a giant bag of pussies.
Snow on Tha Bluff is cinéma vérité at its most raw - a fact that makes the film as hypnotizing as it is disturbing. There's a pinch of optimism during the film's abrupt and somewhat disappointing ending, but even then it still feels authentic. This is life as it is in Tha Bluff and this film is the only way for the outside world to see that. This unrelenting piece of movie heaven hits DVD on June 19th.