IMDb > Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story (2002)

Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story (2002) More at IMDbPro »

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Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story -- CUL DE SAC explores the chilling true-life story of Shawn Nelson, a 35 year-old plumber from Clairemont, California, who emerged from an eighteen foot mine shaft he had dug beneath his backyard in search for gold, stole a tank from a nearby National Guard armory; and went on a rampage through the streets of his neighborhood, crushing cars and lamp posts until the cops took him down.


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In May 1995, Shawn Nelson, a 35 year-old plumber from Clairemont, California, emerged from an eighteen... See more » | Add synopsis »
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insight into America's most dangerous police chase See more (5 total) »


Shawn Nelson ... Himself

Directed by
Garrett Scott 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Ian Olds 
Garrett Scott 

Produced by
Garrett Scott .... producer
Cinematography by
Adrian Zaragoza 
Film Editing by
Ian Olds 
Sound Department
Eli Yerbury .... sound

Production Companies

Additional Details

55 min
Filming Locations:


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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
insight into America's most dangerous police chase, 12 November 2003
Author: ShimmySnail from Albuquerque, USA

This is an amazing documentary, perhaps the best I've ever seen. In 2002, during the war in Afghanistan, the Albuquerque nonprofit Basement Films brought Garrett Scott to show and answer questions about his new documentary about the big picture surrounding the now famous footage of an army of police cruisers taking down a tank on the freeway outside Clairemont, California.

Scott is originally from the same neighborhood as the tank driver, Shawn Nelson, and he builds a comprehensive picture of the decades long relationship between the defense industry and northern California. You go in wondering how this tank chase could happen, and you walk out wondering why it didn't happen sooner.

Nelson was a Gulf War veteran, and Scott explains how most of Nelson's friends and neighbors are children of WWII and Korean War vets. He maps a journey starting with the boom in northern California during the 1950's when those veterans were considered heroes by all, employed in lucrative if blue collar jobs in the defense industry, to today after the jobs steadily evaporated and addiction to a drug called methedrine (a.k.a. crystal meth, originally created by the Air Force to aid pilots) spread from veterans to their children and from the northern Pacific through California across the United States.

Scott interviews Nelson's friends and family, many of whom fell victim to the same substance abuses Nelson did, neighborhood cops who have been dealing with the drugs and crime now their whole careers, he culls footage from local news broadcasts about the incident, and brings in archival footage of the defense industry and the area's better days.

The minuscule romp across a Fox TV special contains a dramatic but slow chase that ends with the tank driver being killed off camera. Scott's film humanizes both Nelson and his friends and neighbors and the people who spend their lives dealing with the area's enormous underlying problems that boiled over in such a unique way, and he makes it clear the pot is still boiling. Obviously, if this is ever available for home viewing, I'm buying a copy instantly to show all my friends, and I recommend you do the same.

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