Director Lotfy Nathan Speaks On 12 O’Clock Boys, Baltimore, & Contextualizing Culture [PHOTOS]
Hip-Hop Wired: You only had one inside man to connect you with the 12 O’Clock Boys. Since you aren’t from Baltimore, could you discuss the culture shock you experience and how that affected making the film.
LN: Like I said, I’m not from Baltimore and that was an asset I think. I was naive. I asked stupid questions. I wanted to know everything. And I think that it was refreshing for the people that ended up being filmed and it was refreshing for me to learn.
Every step of the way was a culture shock. Living in Baltimore was a culture shock. This was kind of like embracing all of the absurdity about the city and meeting interesting people in the midst of all of it. In terms of going into the hood and filming, it almost reminded me of trips I would take to go and visit relatives in Egypt. This kind of intimacy and community that I didn’t necessarily see in other places in the States, but I’d seen it in other countries. It was sort of in the back of my head. It felt natural — especially with Coco and her family.
Hip-Hop Wired: Having spent so much time in Baltimore, do you keep in touch with Pug, Coco, and those you met while filming?
LN: Well, I’m not in Baltimore anymore. I live in New York now, so there’s that. It’s not part of my day to day anymore, but I keep in touch with some of the writers and also Coco and the family. But yeah, I’ll always be close with them. It’s difficult. You have to kind of move out of the film, and I didn’t know when that would happen, but I feel like it’s happened now. There’s this document behind us that speaks of that whole time together.
Hip-Hop Wired: It’s like a time capsule then?
LN: Exactly, and I think it speaks to everybody who was involved in it.
Hip-Hop Wired: Speaking on dirt bike culture, I know Baltimore isn’t the only city with it. Did you do your due diligence on that culture in other cities?
LN: Yes, I looked into it.
Hip-Hop Wired: Ok. Well, why would you say Baltimore is more compelling?
LN: I think the lawlessness. It’s most high octane and kind of high impact there, and exciting for the riders because of the clash with the police. It’s in Harlem, parts of Brooklyn, it’s in Philly, but Baltimore is where you get this real class. I think it’s the landscape and also that it was born out of Baltimore. I don’t think anybody can argue that Baltimore brings it kind of the hardest.
Hip-Hop Wired: For sure. Last question, what do you want viewers to get out of your film?
LN: One would be for viewers to have an understanding of why that kind of rebellion exists. It’s conflicted, I think the consequences presented in the film, but there’s a reason. There’s a kind of yearning and need for escape, and also, a need for defiance.
The other thing to take away is more of a question. Is that warranted — that kind of defiance? I don’t know the answer to that, but I don’t think it’s as simple as shrugging it off or holding kids to the same standards that you would in a different part of the country. Context is everything, and I learned that first hand by being with Pug and a lot of those kids. Context is everything, You see that they have a totally different protocol that they’re raised it. I think, again, context is everything.
That’s why The Wire was so powerful, because there were a lot of identifiable characters. In this case, you’ve got Pug and you’ve got some other people, but I think that’s always valuable. Just remember… you should just remember.
Hip-Hop Wired had the pleasure of seeing 12 O’Clock Boys at a screening in New York City. The film takes viewers through every stage of emotion in a heart racing depiction of an inner city trend that’s spreading from city to city, and has even been popularized in mainstream by the Ruff Ryders and most recently Meek Mill.
12 O’Clock Boys is currently available for purchase via iTunes and it can also be found here. See a trailer for the flick below and images from the aforementioned screening on the following pages.