It’s hard to figure out Snow on tha Bluff in its first few minutes. When three college kids record themselves attempting to buy $500 worth of cocaine in rolls in a ghetto in Atlanta, the camera watches as the group decides to buy from a shifty-eyed character that approaches their car window. The dealer claims to not have the goods on him and the trio agree to take him to his home to get it. However, once in the car, he robs them at gunpoint taking their money and the camera. The dealer, real life Atlanta crack dealer Curtis Snow, takes the camera back to his neighborhood, “The Bluff,” thus starting an intriguing narrative that mixes dramatization and documentary as it follows Snow’s day-to-day routines as well as his attempt to take over a new business of drug dealers selling on his turf.
The ups and downs of the drug world is shown in explicit details throughout Snow on tha Bluff through scenes of terrifying violence as well as heart crushing sadness, making for a captivating film that’s a different breed of cat entirely. From the first few minutes until the film fades to white, Snow on tha Bluff is magnetizing. Damon Russell’s extraordinary directing reveals intimate moments in the life of Snow and his friends as the film is shot from the point of view of a “member” in Snow’s posse, therefore allowing viewers to see a humorous loving side of Snow contrasted against his menacing brutal behavior. Scenes of Snow and his gang riding around the streets ofAtlanta listening to trap music, sharing bottles of liquor, or street bowling to pass time are humorously engaging to watch.
“Hey you can trust me, I’m like a teddy bear… just the kind that will kill you if you step to me wrong.”
Snow’s most endearing moments are captured when he talks about and interacts with his youngest son and the child’s mother. Although absent as a father due to his lifestyle of dealing, Snow’s love for the two is shown when he discusses with the camera how he uses his lifestyle as a means to give the two whatever they want in life the fastest way he knows how. Snow’s one on one documentarian discussions also tackle the brutality he’s experienced on the streets with scenes of him either lamenting about loved ones taken from him or proudly gloating about his role in the community as drugs have helped his family survive throughout the years.
The drama in Snow on tha Bluff is unprecedented and so realistic that it’s hard to watch at times. You don’t see characters like Curtis Snow as a lead in a film ever. He’s loud, vulgar, and shameless in his lifestyle, and while he can be amusing and tell engaging anecdotes, his life-style and behavior are still vicious. He waves his guns like they’re American flags and makes elaborate plans to kill others stating that he doesn’t care if children are involved. In one particular scene after a traumatic event, Snow’s toddler son cries in devastation but is quickly interrupted by Snow telling him to stop because “you ain’t no girl,” hardening his son to the lifestyle and losses he will likely endure being raised in that environment. As the son stops his crying, he sniffles with tears in his eyes, trying not to resume. The scene sits uncomfortably in the silent room, forcing viewers to endure the pain in the air.
And you thought this was uncomfortable to sit through.
Snow on tha Bluff goes back and forth between moments of scripted drama and genuine documentary-style moments of Snow discussing his life in the ghetto, the trials he’s endured, and the people he’s seen killed as well as those he’s killed himself. At times characters have to be blurred to ensure their anonymity, giving an uneasy feeling of the reality that exists in the images unfolding.
However despite its brutality, Snow on tha Bluff is phenomenal. It takes all the drama of turf war in the drug culture seen in New Jack City with the realistic brutality of Menace to Society and packages it all together in a point of view documentary style exposing the underground world of drug dealing as more than a glamorized fantasy world heard in rap songs and seen in Hollywood produced films. Instead Snow on the Bluff interrogates the concept of a “thug” and showcases a wide spectrum of drug dealing, while also forcing the argument of nature vs. nurture back into society. Produced by Michael K. Williams of “The Wire”, Snow on tha Bluff is a must see film for anyone who can stomach witnessing a seeing eye into the drug world, a world that, if you’re like me living in an urban city, is only a few blocks away.
Take a Sip: every time Curtis Snow does
Take a Sip: for every blunt you see being smoked (but be careful, there’s a lot)
Take a Sip: for every scene shot in night vision
Take a Sip: every time an image is blurred out