Like a tagger with a camera, director Jon Reiss puts his mark on the canon of graffiti films using an appropriate technique: He goes bigger than anyone, hitting five continents over a two-year period. Reiss, who documented electronic music with Better Living Through Circuitry in 1999, interviews more than 100 artists for Bomb It, from laurel-resting legends to hooded youth still in the thick of it. He starts in the Philadelphia with the first modern writer (a still-happy cat named Cornbread), then provides a nostalgic look at New Yorks subway-car heyday before catching a plane. With a sharply edited blur of brief artist interviews cut with art, the film explores the various approaches to the form, from Blek Le Rat's vermin stencils in Paris to Sixe's cartoon characters in Barcelona to DAIM's wildly abstract lettering in Hamburg. Reiss also captures the differing reactions of the authorities: In Brazil, the twin-brother team Os Gemeos, caught during a session on a busy street, reason with the policeman until he actually moves on. In Cape Town, however, we find a street scene that grew out of the anti-Apartheid movement, where writers were detained as political prisoners. A freaky interlude concerns an artist named Zezão, who, outfitted in industrial waders, descends into what he calls "the most contaminated place in São Paulo" -- an underground sewer, knee-deep in scary fluids -- to craft, by flashlight, limpid alienlike symbols. Of course, nobody ever sees them, save perhaps the homeless family he found one day living amidst the waste. Throughout the film Reiss lets the detractors have their say -- graffiti is visual blight, a gateway crime, the iconic "broken window" that leads to an area's collapse -- and gives ample time to L.A.'s famous anti-graffiti vigilante, who seems to get as much thrill in painting over graffiti as artists get in creating it. Bomb It covers enormous ground (even billboard-liberator Ron English and Obey-kingpin Shepard Fairey get screen time) but it isn't even close to being the last word: Reiss says DVDs about each of the continents are on the way.
Thu., April 10, 7:15 & 9:20 p.m.; Fri., April 11, 7:15 & 9:20 p.m.; Sat., April 12, 2, 4:15, 7:15 & 9:20 p.m.; Sun., April 13, 2, 4:15, 7:15 & 9:20 p.m.; Mon., April 14, 7:15 & 9:20 p.m., 2008