Glasgow Film Festival Review – ‘Check It’ (2016)

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Here we have a documentary feature about a group of queer black young people in Washington DC who have formed a gang as a result of their oppression, unique to their intersectional identity in gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. Their gang is called ‘Check It‘.

The doc is an interesting mix of fly on the wall footage and interviews to camera. When the camera is with the subjects of the film, they’re either on the streets of DC, or focused creatively in a fashion project, or in the case of Skittles, in the boxing ring. At the very beginning we see grainy mobile phone footage of many “check it” members being attacked. This is a real shock right at the start of the movie.

The film, to a certain extent, lacks an angle. ‘Check It‘ is just saying “here is what is happening in these people’s lives”. Many documentary features come from a politically charged place, either trying to expose harsh truths, or attempting to get individuals/groups to tell the camera an admission, or an extremity. In the case of Michael Moore, Louis Theroux, and internet media from the likes of Vice; they’re all trying to pursue an angle (albeit a different one in each of their cases). In comparison, ‘Check It‘ is a lot more organic as a documentary. This is again backed up in the fact that it was partly crowd funded.

There are a few moments that detract from the film. At one point the film is from a fuzzy handheld, noticeable in comparison to the clean digital look of the rest. At another point the Scissor Sisters song ‘Take Your Mama‘ accompanies footage of a boxing ring. I’m unsure how appropriate this song really is. It’s obvious that the film-makers are deliberately juxtaposing the male dominated sport against the sexuality of the subjects. Yet, I just doubt that any of the members of “check it” are listening to the Scissor Sisters on a regular basis.

The film is intriguing as a whole. Personally I would’ve liked to have seen it discuss the forces of violence more. There’s a focus on the fly on the wall style, where more interviews to camera may have further explored more of an emotional response from those on screen. The film does however persist to explore the inner turmoil of the physical attacks experienced, and how each gang member copes with this in their own terms. It’s insightful.

[rating=4] | Zach Roddis

Documentary, LGBT | USA, 2016 | 15 | 2017 Glasgow Film Festival |Dir. Toby Oppenheimer