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USA, 1995 (MIFF 1995, Documentaries)

Director: Lisanne Skyler

South Central L.A. is a world unto itself. Sometimes lawless, sometimes cruel, always hard. Set largely in the A.B.C. Pawnshop—a Social Security cheque-cashing 'fringe bank'-we are drawn deeply into this neighbourhood where survival is the primary concern.

The cycle of poverty in this area is obvious as the locals ritually shuffle into the shop to either pawn their goods to tide them over, or cash their cheques. Businesses aside from those thriving on the cycle have long since deserted South Cen­tral, the scene of recent rioting on a major scale. Those that remain have their edifices sprayed with graffiti which read "Black owned" to protect them from destruction during these riots.

The static and conventional style of the docu­mentary allows us to inspect closely the barren urban landscape both inside and outside the loanshop. Its customers seem oddly unaware of the camera's presence, perhaps due to the total­ly overwhelming environment in which they live. The environment is described at one point as "a big penitentiary" and it is, for there seems little chance of escape. For them, a camera is the least of their concerns.

No Loans Today includes interviews with mem­bers of the local 'blood' gang, a mother whose child was lost to gang violence, local business people and others whose lives are lost in a haze of crack addiction. Through it all. one point comes through: How can everyone in the same environment turn against one another?

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