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No Loans Today

Centering on the ABC Loan Co., a pawnshop and check-cashing outlet in South Central Los Angeles, "No Loans Today" is a disappointingly amorphous docu that curiously doesn't involve viewers in its interesting story.

Centering on the ABC Loan Co., a pawnshop and check-cashing outlet in South Central Los Angeles, “No Loans Today” is a disappointingly amorphous docu that curiously doesn’t involve viewers in its interesting story. Despite relevant issues, lack of sharp dramatic focus and low-key energy might restrict one-hour docu to regional film festivals, with slight prospects for TV airings.

A 25-year-old operation, ABC Loan serves as the central location for interviews with its owner and manager, who discuss the “rules of the game”–“fair” procedures that are meant to service customers at this “fringe bank.”

Owner talks about his customers’ psychological mentality, their “fear of bigger institutions” and inability to get loans from legit banks. Some people routinely frequent the place, usually toward the end of the month, when they’re falling short of cash. To better assist its clients’ needs, ABC accepts birth certificates and traffic tickets for those lacking drivers’ licenses and other conventional I.D.

The pawnshop was heavily damaged during the 1992 riots, resulting in a 50% decrease in business. Some of the shelves are still empty, waiting for stolen merchandise to be replaced.

In intent, “No Loans Today” aims to explore the economic and political marginalization of South Central’s residents as they go about their daily lives. Some background info is related about the history of the neighborhood, which at one time was vibrant, with viable businesses and social centers. The recent riots, however, and unemployment and recession have profoundly changed the community.

Though some of the personal stories are poignant and heartbreaking, docu suffers from a tedious structure of interviews that are not interrelated, thus failing to form a clear picture of life in South Central today.

No Loans Today

Production: Produced, directed by Lisanne Skyler. Co-producer, Fatima Cortez. Consulting producer, Dr. Herbert Avery.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Federico Salsano; still photography, Pamela Gentile; editors, Mark Redpath, Skyler; music, Paul Scriver, Rex Taylor Smith; sound, Marcio Camara, Ramin Lebaschi. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 28, 1995. Running time: 56 MIN.

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