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Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story (2002)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 23 April 2005 (USA)
In May 1995, Shawn Nelson, a 35 year-old plumber from Clairemont, California, emerged from an eighteen foot mine shaft he had dug beneath his backyard in search for gold. An ex-soldier and ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Shawn Nelson ... Himself


In May 1995, Shawn Nelson, a 35 year-old plumber from Clairemont, California, emerged from an eighteen foot mine shaft he had dug beneath his backyard in search for gold. An ex-soldier and methamphetamine abuser, he stole a tank from a nearby National Guard armory and went on a rampage through the residential streets of his neighborhood, crushing cars and lampposts until the cops took him down. CUL DE SAC goes far beyond this apparently minor news story and provides extensive political, economic and social context that ties Nelson's life to the larger story of a working class community in decline. Newsreels of a fat, happy San Diego in the 50s and 60s, the perfect representation of middle class aspirations for economic prosperity, are juxtaposed with contemporary images of shuttered defense plants, jobless blue-collar suburbanites, drug abusers, and police on patrol. Statements from police, historians and real estate agents sketch out the rise and fall of this military-fueled boomtown... Written by Anonymous

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User Reviews

Insightful if slightly confusing document of poor working class whites
26 February 2005 | by See all my reviews

It's not easy to describe this hour long documentary. There is no narration to tie everything together so the story is told by the interviews and footage. There are several aspects that you could loose if you don't pay close attention to what is being said.

I remember when the story broke and I've seen the tank footage repeated in various chase shows on TV but I never got the story about the guy in the tank. The despair and drugs make a lot of sense now. It's amazing that a lot of the people interviewed are so frank about their drug use, especially when it's clear that some of them were high during the interviews. The downfall and bubbling insanity of Shawn Nelson is made very real. Even his druggie friends were unable to deal with him towards the end. All except one major league paranoid conspiracy driven guy.

The real reason that this is a documentary worth watching is the clear picture of a side of the United States that most of us don't see. Miserable, drug-addicted poor white communities that the system has forgotten.

This is not a "perfect" documentary but it's faults do not ruin it's quality.

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