When Albert Brooks left “Saturday Night Live” (around 1975), Gary Weis took over making short films for the show. In 1979, Weis directed this documentary film called 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s (referring to the distance – 80 blocks – between Tiffany’s jewelry store in Manhattan and South Bronx to the north), which detailed the life of South Bronx gangs. Main focus goes to a (mostly) African-American gang called “Savage Nomads” and a Puerto Rican gang known as the “Savage Skulls.”
As Eddie Pantalon states, the film
captures the end of an era for New York gangs. Hip-hop, rap, and breakdancing would soon take over as the youth culture of NYC streets.
…This is rare glimpse into late 70s New York City. The filmmakers were able to show these kids devoid of any self-awareness. Capturing portraits of New York teens as none self-conscious as this is simply impossible to do in today’s society.
About making the film, Weis said: “I’m not too much for making social commentary, so I just filmed what was happening.” 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s was selected for the Marfa Film Festival recently.
“There’s no guilt when you’re watching this film,” said Robin Lambaria, director of the Marfa Film Festival. “You don’t feel sorry for the people in it, and you forget that these are some really bad guys.”
Buy 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s on DVD
80 Blocks From Tiffany’s was inspired by an article written by Jon Bradshaw for Esquire in 1977. To research the article, Bradshaw befriended the gang members. Bradshaw agreed to help Weis make the film, taking him into the dangerous Bronx neighborhoods, which would have been impossible for Weis to do by himself, as he was an outsider. Weis would describe the experience as being in the old west.
The film was funded by NBC News and was supposed to air during NBC’s 11:30pm time slot. When they saw how raw the story was, they decided not to air it.
Here is the full movie – 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s: