A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s, specifically focusing on graffiti art and breakdancing.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Demon ...
Himself
Kase 2 ...
Himself (as Kase)
Eric Haze ...
Himself (as SE 3)
Spank ...
Himself
Trap ...
Himself
Kay Slay ...
Himself (as Dez)
Butch
Skeme ...
Himself
Zone ...
Himself
Min One ...
Himself (as Min)
Cap ...
Himself
Michael Martin ...
Himself (as Iz the Wiz)
Quik ...
Himself
Mare ...
Himself
Li'l Seen ...
Himself
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Storyline

A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s, specifically focusing on graffiti art and breakdancing.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary | Music

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Details

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Release Date:

1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Graffiti-háború  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Henry Chalfant was originally against having Cap appear in the film because he had become friendly with the graffiti artists whose work Cap had ruined. But Tony Silver insisted that Cap appear because his name was repeatedly mentioned by the artists. Some of the artists felt betrayed by Chalfant because they felt that he gave Cap the attention that he sought. See more »

Quotes

Cap: There's two styles of graffiti that are trying to, you know, co-exist with each other. But it ain't gonna work like that. Blood Wars, buddy. Blood Wars.
See more »

Connections

References The Beastmaster (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Beat Bop
Written by Rammellzee and K-Rob
Performed by Rammellzee featuring K-Rob
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The best film about graffiti ever
5 February 2005 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

It is a shame so few people have seen the 1982 PBS documentary "Style Wars". It is not listed in either Lenny Maltin's or Videohound's giant books. This story of NYC graffiti writers fighting transit cops, their parents, and each other is still the definitive word on graffiti and early hip hop culture in the days before it became commercialized. This was probably the 1st film anywhere to examine break dancing and hip hop in any depth well before either became mainstream. For that reason alone it is an important part of hip hop history, to see what it was all about before corruption by cash and fame.

Some standout personalities in this film include one armed Case, former NYC mayor Ed Koch, graffiti "villan" Cap, and Skeme and his mom. On the 2nd DVD many of the still living graffiti writers are interviewed in 2001, and although Skeme is now a major in the US army, his (now) little old lady mom is still afraid someone's kid is going to get hurt in the subway tunnel. Some of the kids from Style Wars are dead like Shy and Dondi (both have tributes),and some went to prison like Min. Some are successful 40 and even 50 somethings today. One or two even go paint the occasional subway car still.

The 1st DVD contains outtakes from Style Wars, some of which could have been removed originally to make the filmmakers look better. The transit authority cop says he thinks the film will encourage others to commit vandalism. It is also apparent when watching this DVD that Cap was made out to seem worse than he was thru creative editing. The 2nd DVD contains a great short film from 1976 (I think) called Classic hits by Tracy 168 (from Wild Style).

Overall this film tries to look at graffiti from the perspectives of the writers themselves, citizens of New York, and the establishment. Even the artists saw the end of the golden age coming with barbed wire fences and eventually even dogs being employed to keep them out of the train yards. It's just unfortunate that such an original art form was so unrecognized by mainstream society. Maybe it had to be that way anyway, when the art community did notice and galleries did start showing the art on canvas, it tended to become fossilized. The scene in the gallery is funny because the artists who are planning to cash in on graffiti try to convince themselves that "getting up" can be be done on canvas as well as trains. A young Swedish woman at the art gallery correctly observes its not the same on canvas, that is an art form that belonged on the trains, not on a gallery wall.

The definitive book to go along with Style wars is "Subway Art" by Henry Chalfant who also produced style Wars. He and Martha Cooper spent a huge amount of time photographing NYC subways, and their hard work is well documented on the 2nd DVD which contains 32 artist galleries and a 30 minute loop of train photos.

If all you have ever seen about graffiti is "Wild Style" or "Beat Street", pick up Style Wars. If you can find it. Stylewars.com


18 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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