On the streets of Washington there is a war going on. Teenage thugs armed with automatic weapons run many of the inner city blocks. Fully half of the black men aged between 18 and 35 are stuck somewhere in the prison system. For many of them, 'thug life' is a guiding philosophy. As they see it, life is short, with few options, so they live fast and dangerously—as they scramble for their share of the pie with the rapacious zeal of corporate raiders.
Documenting this brutal reality is the effort of co-filmmakers Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson—the former bringing the powerful feature Slam to MIFF audiences in 1998. In making Thug Life in D.C., they followed one of these teenagers over the course of two and a half years from his entry into the prison system for the attempted murder of a police officer and murder of an 18 year-old boy. Prince among prison juveniles, Aundrey Burno declares: "I am the definition of thug". But even Aundrey realises that his words ring hollow and tries to convince his younger brother Kevin not to follow his footsteps. He fears that his words are ultimately wasted when he cries, "Our generation died when our fathers were born". Through Aundrey's story, a picture of sheer brutality and wasted lives emerges. Thug Life in D.C. is raw, telling and all too true.