Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    ‘18 With a Bullet’: Exporting U.S. Gang Life to El Salvador

    July 11, 2006
    TV Review
    ‘18 With a Bullet’: Exporting U.S. Gang Life to El Salvador
    The documentary “18 With a Bullet” suggests that crime doesn’t pay much. Young members of the 18 street gang in San Salvador, this Wide Angle special on PBS reports, earn about $60 a week selling marijuana. No wonder they have to shake down bus drivers for protection money too.

    But the film has a larger, more disturbing point. Usually, when the United States is criticized for exporting American culture and values, the references are to fast food, sugary beverages, violent movies and inane television shows. Now “18 With a Bullet” illustrates the ways this country is exporting gang culture as well.

    Salvadorans who emigrate to Los Angeles, for instance, sometimes become part of street gangs there. When these young criminals are deported to their home country, as many were after the civil war ended there in 1992, they just set up shop in the new location.

    This film concentrates on 18 (begun as the 18th Street Gang in Los Angeles), which is determined to win its war with a rival gang, MS-13. An older member of 18, a 30-year-old veteran known as Slappy, allows himself to be filmed while hiding from the police, who are seeking him on a homicide charge. The cameras even follow him to a barber, where he gets a haircut that he hopes will make him less recognizable.

    Slappy has a wife and three sons, and says he hopes for a better life for them. Now that he has children, he says, he feels sort of bad about having killed men who had children of their own.

    The film isn’t always as shocking as it wants to be, if only because American viewers have been desensitized by so many news reports about gang violence. It isn’t big news, for instance, when one young man instructs his fellow gang members not to “sell crack to your homeboys” because “when you sell to homeboys, you’re killing them.” It is only moderately noteworthy that the local prison is said to be run by the gangs.

    Even when one boy announces, “I love my gang more than my mother,” it is almost understandable. After all, she left him to move to the United States when he was 6 months old. His more portentous comment is a casual remark later that he hopes to live to be 37. Or maybe even 39.

    And the sight of four young women knocking another young woman to the ground and kicking her hard for a predetermined number of seconds as part of an initiation is pretty brutal. (Male gang members are later shown doing the same thing to punish a member who broke a rule.)

    The makers of “18 With a Bullet” don’t fully convey the extent of the crisis in El Salvador, where the homicide rate is said to be roughly seven times that of the United States. But the program does hint at the hopelessness when a young man explains why he kills.

    “It’s for the cause,” he says.

    What cause? Neither of the gangs appears to stand for anything in particular. As the boy also says, it’s just that it’s “either us or them.”


    18 With a Bullet

    On most PBS stations Tuesday night (check local listings).

    Directed by Ricardo Pollack; Stephen Segaller, executive producer; Pamela Hogan, series producer; Andy Halper, senior producer. Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York.
    Support our FIGHT AGAINST illegal immigration & Amnesty by joining our E-mail Alerts at

  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion
    16,029 ... 01317.html

    PBS Street Gang Documentary Pulls No Punches

    By Teresa Wiltz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, July 11, 2006; C01

    The camera pans the crowd in slo-mo, dancing with a crowd of very young men. They are bare-chested and tattooed, pumped up on testosterone, flashing gang signs, looking joyous. There are women, too, just as young, looking on top of the world, the camera following them through the streets of San Salvador and into a playground's basketball court, eavesdropping as they negotiate the rules of the game.

    Can I hold up my hands to my face? A young, ponytailed woman wants to know. Hit back, maybe?

    "You can't do anything," another woman informs her. You've just got to take it.

    And take it the girl does, as four or five women and one man kick the daylights out of her, 18 kicks in all, to commemorate the name of the gang she is trying to join: the 18th Street gang of San Salvador, the subject of an often mesmerizing documentary, "18 With a Bullet." (The film, written and directed by Ricardo Pollack, airs tonight at 9 on PBS.)

    The initiate curls on the ground, flinching but resolute. Her attackers yank her up, pat her on the back, and grin.

    "Welcome to the gang!" they tell her.

    As openings go, it's a real humdinger, quickly establishing tone and territory. But it's also a bit misleading, because aside from this scene, women are mere extras in the documentary, occasionally seen but rarely heard from, unless it's the weary wife of Slappy, stoic and suffering, telling her murdering, crackhead husband, "I swear to you, this is the last time. . ."

    Instead, the filmmakers focus on the compelling men of 18: Slappy, Charlie, Travieso, Duke and their compadres, a baby-faced crew of conflicted souls finding family, solace and structure in each other.

    "I love my gang more than my mother," says one gang member whose mother abandoned him to find work in the United States. "When I needed my mother, she wasn't there for me." The gang, however, was.

    About that gang: It is an American export, a little example of cross-cultural fertilization gone awry. Many of the gangbangers depicted were born in El Salvador and came with their parents to the States, growing up in Los Angeles, where they formed allegiances with the original 18th Street gang, or MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), whose presence has been acutely felt in the Washington area.

    Gang life leads to trouble with the law, and many of these gangbangers are deported and booted back home. Unmoored and missing family, they re-create their gang in tiny El Salvador. Because of the country's bloody 12-year civil war, there are guns aplenty, and no shortage of bombastic young men eager to use them. Today, the documentary reports, El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The cost of gang violence on the tiny nation: $1 billion a year, according to the filmmakers.

    "A bunch of homies came through, deported," says Slappy, himself a deportee, "and they still come."

    The filmmakers follow these young men through the course of their lives, watching them iron clothes, kiss their babies, extort money from bus drivers, peddle pot, pop in and out of prison. And they managed to obtain incredible access to their subjects: We see Slappy fight with his wife and watch him sob after she leaves him. We watch them discipline each other (18 kicks, counting off each one). We listen in as tearful Travieso begs his absentee mother, who is working as a domestic in the United States, to send for him.

    "I don't care that you don't send me money," he tells her, his voice breaking. "I want to be with you."

    The next day, we watch him prepping to go out on a kill.

    Death is ever-present in their lives: We watch them all crowd around a coffin to sing to a fallen "homeboy," index and middle fingers splayed in the 18th Street sign. Charlie, still a teen, boasts about how he gets to do things most kids his age don't: kill people. Another muses that he'd like to live a long time. He's 17. He'd love to see 37. Maybe even 39.

    The filmmakers don't judge their subjects, instead letting us come to our own conclusions about them and their choices. At times, however, this impassivity undercuts the film's power: We don't get to hear from the people the gangbangers terrorize, or witness the grief of the families of the rivals they kill.

    Another quibble: The subjects, many of them bilingual, flit back and forth between English and Spanish, and at first, the film keeps up, translating with unobtrusive but skillful subtitles, capturing the flavor of their speech. Then, rather abruptly, the filmmakers abandon the subtitles, dubbing over Spanish speakers' voices with very proper English. The effect is jarring, and for Spanish speakers who'd no doubt prefer to hear the Spanish, profoundly annoying.

    Still, "18" makes for powerful watching. We can't help but feel for these young men -- even though if we encountered them on a dark street, we'd want to run in the opposite direction.

    Wide Angle: 18 With a Bullet (one hour) debuts tonight at 9 on WMPT (Channel 22) and at 10 on WETA (Channel 26).
    Support our FIGHT AGAINST illegal immigration & Amnesty by joining our E-mail Alerts at

  3. #3
    Senior Member curiouspat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Seattle, WA. area!

    I've seen this before. I watched it only because of the international gang which created such havoc in my life.

    Thanks for the post. People DO need to be aware of this gang. They're here in Miami....really violent!!!! The police made a huge sweep and arrested a lot of them....but...there will be more.
    TIME'S UP!
    Why should <u>only</u> AMERICAN CITIZENS and LEGAL immigrants, have to obey the law?!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    We watched this last night and it is nothing but propaganda to make the viewer feel sorry for these "young kids" which to me were nothing but violent, gangland animals. I am supposed to feel bad for 16-18 yr. olds cutting up crack the size of pancakes, smoking dope, brandishing guns and talking all tough? I am glad we deported them.

    One thing did occur to me is El Salvador does nothing to try and keep those gangbangers in their countries and reform them. Those 18-ers and ms-13 savages are so out of control, El Salvador is practically pushing them in the direction of our country so it is our problem not theirs anymore because they cannot handle or deal them.

    "What part of illegal don't you understand?"

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts