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Review: Blood in the Face (1991)

Blood in the Face (1991)

Directed by: Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty, and James Ridgeway 

Premise: A documentary about antigovernment and white supremacist groups, featuring interviews with active members of the organizations.

What Works: Blood in the Face is a frightening but penetrating look at the white supremacist subculture and the people active in that subculture. The film is styled like some of Errol Morris’ documentary work such as Vernon, Florida in that it has no narration, is shot and edited in a very unobtrusive and natural style, and is less concerned with narrative than it is with capturing a portrait of its subject. Despite the limitations of its approach, Blood in the Face does manage to provide a historical context for the rise of neo-Nazi organizations in America by using news footage of white supremacist leader George Lincoln Rockwell and cross cutting that with footage of contemporary leaders such as David Duke. The filmmaking style also serves the film in that it gives Blood in the Face credibility; the documentary allows for the people on camera to speak for themselves and in many cases make idiots of themselves as they espouse their ideology. The film also has some surprising moments of sympathy in interviews with some of the spouses of active members as they describe their racism in terms of wanting to stay isolated from a culture that is changing in ways they aren’t comfortable with. While their views should not be dismissed or go uncriticized, these moments of the documentary have an important relevance in that this subtler racism is the link between the extreme figures who populate the majority of this documentary and the wider society that is likely to view the film.

What Doesn’t: Blood in the Face is a dated documentary. Notably, the film takes place two years before the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which galvanized this movement. Although some parts of this film are still quite relevant, especially in regards to recruitment, this is very much a documentary of its time.

DVD extras: None. 

Bottom Line: Blood in the Face is an interesting piece of documentary filmmaking worth a look by those interested in the neo-Nazi and antigovernment movements and as a media artifact of the early 1990s. It is also worth viewing alongside similar documentaries such as Waco: The Rules of Engagement and Right America Feeling Wronged.

Episode: #284 (April 18, 2010)