Straight -- no chaser . . .

George Jackson & Doug McHenry

April 17, 1991|By George Jackson& Doug McHenry

AS FILMMAKERS, we are greatly impressed but totally unconvinced by the idea that a movie can have a significant effect on the behavior of moviegoers.

If influencing people were that simple, Attica would be a cineplex and the Democrats would buy Paramount.

But it's never that simple.

Attica is still a jail and the Democrats aren't running anything.

Our film "New Jack City" is the latest example of the news media's tendency to deal with complex issues via headlines rather than analysis.

In their reporting on the violence surrounding "New Jack City," some elements of the news media have neglected to put each episode in context.

The murder of a 19-year-old in Brooklyn, N.Y., earlier this month stemmed from a housing project rivalry. The melee in Los Angeles was apparently caused by a theater operator who denied access to 1,500 ticketholders. Similar circumstances surrounded the gang fights in Las Vegas as well as incidents in Chicago and Sayreville, N.J.

Those who argue, as many have, that our film encourages viewers to imitate the violence they've seen on screen are wrong.

The real cause of violence at the theaters is not cinematic images of drug culture but decades of poverty in our communities.

Chronic unemployment, inadequate education, dilapidated housing, poor health care, a lack of public services and an apathetic political bureaucracy do not breed civility.

Our goal during the almost three years it took to make "New Jack City" was to draw attention to the deadly impact of crack cocaine on inner-city communities.

Our film does not glorify drug culture; it vilifies it.

Not a single character in the film who comes into contact with drugs -- either as a user or a seller -- survives with his or her life intact.

Those who reject drugs and respect the community are the film's heroes.

The "New Jack" philosophy is to give it to you straight -- no chaser.

The tension that underlies much of our daily life is the rage of a generation left behind.

In a recent article, the historians Neil Howe and William Strauss explained how the 13th generation of Americans may have missed out on the American Dream.

Born after 1960, they have witnessed the murders of Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the beginning and end of the war on poverty and the AIDS and crack epidemics.

They may be the first generation of African-Americans who do not have a dream.

Each generation of Americans has had a chance for greatness.

Today we are cheering the return of our multiracial fighting force. The soldiers of the 13th generation displayed discipline and courage.

We hope in the coming months that the other members of the 13th generation are not forgotten.

If our filmmaking is guilty of anything it is our emphasis on these young people on the home front and their desire for usefulness, significance and even greatness.

"New Jack City" isn't the culprit. The violence attributed to our movie comes straight from the broken promises that litter the American landscape.

George Jackson and Doug McHenry produced "New Jack City."

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