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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

My vote for the best of the 2009 TIFF

Author: alan_v35 from Canada
8 October 2009

I rolled into TO for the last weekend of the 2009 TIFF (Toronto Int'l Film Festival) and went on a whirlwind movie spree, seeing nine movies in two days. Some, like My Son, My Son What Ye Done, were god awful, pretentious art-house junk and others, like Jennifer's Body, were pretty good, but head and shoulders above the other eight was Down For life. This gritty inner city drama, which is apparently a true story inspired by a New Times article, crackles with realism and the performers seem to be simply living rather than acting at all. The action scenes are gripping and look more like Youtube than Hollywood, thanks to the skilled direction of little-known director, Alan Jacobs.

Jessica Romero, was cast right off the streets of East Central to play the lead role of Rascal, the streetwise leader of a small women's wing of a Latino gang. The whole story takes place in a single chaotic day in her violence-filled life. Conflict surrounds her, both inside and outside the gang, as well as in the home. On top of all this is a looming deadline for entry to a summer writing program that Rasacal is being encouraged to apply for by a concerned teacher played by Danny Glover. The program might be an escape hatch to a better life or may just add to her problems. The crisp story moves along quickly and eventually takes us a scene so jarring that viewers seemed to jump back in their seats as one.

Down For Life is a current and raw film made in the vein of such inner city classics as Boyz n The Hood. It is an independent film and may be hard to find, but as the best film of 2009, thus far, it is well worth the effort. If you would like to read more of my reviews, slide over to

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Fall into some Real Drama

Author: brainembargo from Los Angeles, United States
28 September 2010

What seems to start out as a basic, straightforward youth drama rapidly evolves into a coming-of-age tale about an often-stereotyped, often-misunderstood and certainly too-often unbelievably true lifestyle of American youth in the streets of metro centers.

Jessica Romero as the lead character Rascal truly captures the authentic street-lifestyle completely. She lives and breathes the part.

Despite my normally removed-attitude when watching dramas, I was compelled to the point of squirming in my seat. A realistic portrayal of the harsh and cruel forces watching and warping the development of inner city youth.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Inspiring, and eye-opening, Jacob's day in the life of a teen gang, is a must-see.

Author: ( from United States
23 September 2010

As a young girl, my favorite film was "Le Ballon Rouge," or in English, "The Red Balloon." I loved the idea of a following a day, in the life of an individual or the course of the sun's rays over a bridge. What counts for a day? Alan Jacob's film "Down for Life" follows a girl much as my favorite French film follows a boy running after a red balloon. The only difference is that the narrator's chase is for her own red blood, as she runs toward the "protection" of her gang sisterhood and away from death. Unlike the French film, the protagonist is not bored. Rather, she is the product of her harsh limited experiences, a life weighed by the pain of hurt and abuse she has suffered as a young Latina woman in South Central L.A. I speak of blood and human suffering, as the film is brutally honest to the extent of its form. In fact, its filming style is as raw as its LA ghetto streets and even mimetic of Cinéma vérité. Jacob's choices are evidently intentional, when during the ending of the film, your heart has been robbed and you know it was supposed to be. Just as in life, and in real life events and people, the events of the film are not black and white. Who is to blame for the tragedy of the film? The protagonist? The protagonist's parents? A culture of poverty? The failures of American society? Or are WE to blame? Jacob's film successfully captures human tragedy more than we want to accept and raises the level of compassion for our inherently flawed humankind who does its best to survive. Inspiring, and eye-opening, Jacob's day in the life of a teen gang, is a must-see.

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Excellent film

Author: kbhenry81 from United States
25 November 2010

I'm not really into the "gangsta" type movies but when I viewed this at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, it blew me away. The acting was very believable; story telling first-rate.

Although it's the typical subject of an individual making it out of a bad environment, this film was more realistic by way of introducing unknown actors, taking the gangsta life and viewing it through a young female and filming it on location. The story wasn't all "me against the world" hype. You can really feel for the main character.

I believe anyone who feels they're in a bad environment and feel they can't get out of it, (which is pretty much anyone at some point of their lives) no matter what their circumstance, can really get something out of this movie. Well done! I highly recommend it.

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An experience in understanding

Author: Elisa Harvey from United States
28 September 2010

A very raw intriguing true life film that hits one hard in the heart. Knowing the story of how this film came to be because of the redemption of one girl who who found the strength within to save herself and a passion that opened a door to a real and beautiful life is incredibly inspiring!! I would recommend this movie to anyone that lives in a world where are troubles are minimum yet we make mountains out of them. Bieng blessed in many ways with my life is something this movie has shown me.. I believe the strongest, wisest, most amazing people in this world come from true hardships. They understand life and are grateful for more, love more and judge less.

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This film was well done and moving

Author: pupylvr from United States
7 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I only saw this movie in its uncompleted state, but even then, it moved me. The acting was very good, the plot is riveting, and the emotion is real. The story does not shy away from any of the harsh realities of gang life, and the message comes loud and clear, without seeming overly preachy. Its story is harsh and real, yet it doesn't focus only on violence. It is not a happy-go-lucky film, but its bittersweet nature only makes its message more powerful. I was moved watching this film. It really made me care about the characters and their situation, without seeming to try to. I enjoyed it. I would recommend this film to anyone.

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