Nic Hill's first feature "Piece by Piece" is an excellent overview of two decades' graffiti in San Francisco -- and, while the legal consequences are duly addressed, partisan pic makes no bones about viewing graffiti as an art form rather than a public nuisance.

Nic Hill’s first feature “Piece by Piece” is an excellent overview of two decades’ graffiti in San Francisco — and, while the legal consequences are duly addressed, partisan pic makes no bones about viewing graffiti as an art form rather than a public nuisance. Regional focus may limit theatrical interest, but dynamically assembled docu deserves a chance to connect with younger, hip hop-savvy audiences at fests, rep cinemas and other specialized outlets. It should prove a long-term cult fave among aficionados on DVD.

Positing San Francisco as “the style capital of the U.S.”–though New York City and Los Angeles provided pioneering influences — feature celebrates particular artists and personalities, though many choose to keep their faces (and real names) obscured. About 20 “chapters” cover topics like “cholo writing” (leaving a signature tag), the “subterranean art galleries” opened up when quake-damaged buildings were razed, and Proposition 21, which made graffiti punishable as a felony. Using multiple film/video formats and amusing archival footage, often editing in synch to a terrific soundtrack by DJ Qbert and others, pic’s own aesthetic amplifies the brash, streetwise nature of its subjects.

Piece By Piece

Production

An Underdog Pictures production. Produced by Nic Hill. Co-producers, Ed Walker Jr., Tom Quickel, Noah Tsutsui. Directed by Nic Hill.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Hill; editors, Hill, John Murillo, Adam Hazard; production designers, Adam Hazard, Brishen Mahoney, Mike Tran; music supervisor, Hill. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Nov. 25, 2005. Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Senor One, Dug1, Crayone, Cycle, KR, Grey, Revok, Saber, Renos, Deen, Joro, Giant, Phresh, Abhor, Grey, Buter, Joro, Norm, Twist.
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