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Life is Hot in Cracktown

International Premiere

  • USA 2009
  • 101 min
  • 35mm
  • English
International Premiere, hosted by writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo

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"Makes heroes out of the sort of characters portrayed as villains in mainstream cinema... there is more at stake in these mini-narratives than death, but the failure of humanity, and Giovinazzo loves his characters too much to let that happen" — Donato Totaro, OFFSCREEN


Director: Buddy Giovinazzo
Screenplay: Buddy Giovinazzo
Cast: Kerry Washington, Illeana Douglas , Brandon Routh, RZA, Victor Rasuk
Producers: Larry Rattner, William Fisch
Distributor: Les Films Séville / E1


Four tales of crack-smashed devastation are intertwined like toxic arteries in this hard-hitting new work from filmmaker and novelist Buddy Giovinazzo (COMBAT SHOCK). Manny (Victor Rasuk) struggles to support his wife and their baby. He works two jobs, one as a security guard at a welfare hotel, the other doing graveyard shift at a 24-hour convenience store on one of the most dangerous streets in town. He’s lucky to sleep more than four hours, and the pressure is starting to break him down. Ten-year-old Willy (Ridge Canipe) lives with his little sister, their addict mother (Illeana Douglas) and her abusive leech of a boyfriend in the hotel where Manny works. He panhandles on the streets to get food for his family and dope for his mother. He’s desperately in love with Melody (Elena Franklin), a disturbingly young prostitute who hustles just outside his building. Pre-op transsexual Marybeth (Kerry Washington) also turns tricks to survive. Her lover Benny (Desmond Harrington) is a petty thief with a good heart and a rock-rusted mind. They’re keeping it together while their worlds are falling apart. Romeo (Evan Ross) is a 16-year-old gangbanger. He hasn’t been the same since his younger brother was shot dead. These days, Romeo mutes his pain by slashing and brutalizing the people around him. Each of these lives touches and impacts the others in this tensely woven tapestry of hurt, hope and horror.

Buddy Giovinazzo has created a haunting urban nightmare that plays like a strung-out version of Altman’s SHORT CUTS by way of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. Like his previous films, CRACKTOWN is set deep below the poverty line and steeped in human frailty, populated with unforgettable characters in terrifying circumstances. An adaptation of his 1993 cult bestseller of the same name, this is a film that Giovinazzo has been trying to get made for nearly 15 years. Through the infamy of the novel and the force of his script, he was able to line up an all-star cast (other actors include Brandon Routh, RZA and Lara Flynn Boyle) in spite of the film’s low budget. Everyone worked for very little pay and shot completely on location in a downtown Los Angeles neighbourhood that was overrun with drugs, guns and crime. Their performances across the board are extraordinary, bringing life to this deeply affecting portrait of the broken and the dangerous. CRACKTOWN is a shocking and compassionate work that chillingly illustrates how America has already lost so much more than just its war on drugs.

—Mitch Davis

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