A globetrotting documentary on graffiti, Bomb It features interviews with all sorts of internationally renowned artists, from Cornbread, who claims to have begun the tagging movement in Philadelphia in 1967, to today's crossover propagandists like Ron English, who are as happy tagging walls as they are painting cars or designing clothing.
The film's most engaging facet might be its focus on the differences between graffiti in New York and Los Angeles and everywhere else: In Barcelona, street painting is legal, so the taggers have been able to create beautiful work without having to worry about the cops. Japanese graffiti, meanwhile, looks like manga. In Capetown, graffiti used to be about "freeing Mandela," but now it's about... er... selling clothing and paint?
And this is where Bomb It lands itself in dodgy ideological territory. Throughout, director Jon Reiss seems to be trying to say that graffiti embodies a global resistance to corporate culture and cultural oppression—which, yeah, is where graffiti may have started, but that certainly isn't where it is today. A rich kid wearing Etnies and painting the side of a corrugated tin shack in a South African township hardly helps anybody resist or overcome anything, and Bomb It's glorification of bizarre stunts like this is more about marketing graffiti culture to you, the viewer, than it is about adbusting or commenting on apartheid.
Seeing Bomb It for the incredible painting on display is one thing—just don't get too hung up on the delusional, self-aggrandizing politics. Reiss got his start directing music videos for Nine Inch Nails, and the film's musical supervisor, David Garcia, has done club mixes for such underground icons as Nelly Furtado and Ashlee Simpson. That's as good an indicator as any that these guys aren't documenting graffiti as a political movement so much as they're on the make.