a Film By Michelle Latimer
A World Premiere at Hot Docs
Friday April 26 – 7 pm – The Royal
“First you do it for the thugs, then you do it for the love, you a hustler, a muscler, you all of the above.
“With your hands on your dick, all you do is mack chicks… I can’t believe this life, got my head so high I’m ‘bout to pass the sky.”
The media message has always been that rap glamourizes and feeds the “thug life.” From NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, to the West Coast/East Coast powderkeg that killed Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., to a string of shootings in Toronto recording studios, the music has been demonized and stigmatized as the “gateway” to youth gang culture.
But ALIAS, the feature documentary by Michelle Latimer, looks directly at the lives of Toronto rappers, who’ve sprung from ‘hoods that have turned into angry “territories.” There she found stories that belied the stereotypes, young rappers using the form as an alternative to gang life, and as a possible escape. And their expression – while a stark and realistic portrait of Canada’s growing underclass – is anything but an endorsement of thug life.
But a straight road can be a rough road – as shown by the movie’s profiles of rappers Alkatraz, Trench and the title character Alias Donmillion. Alias, one of the most prolific rappers in Canada, made enemies with his hard-hitting rhymes, and took to carrying a gun for protection. He ended up serving time for firearms violations after firing shots in the air during Toronto’s Caribana weekend in 2002.
“Unfortunately this guy, who grew up in the neighbourhood, tried to write and sing music a little bit more positive in nature and ended up targeted,” Alias’s lawyer said in court. “Different neighbourhoods are shooting each other up on a regular basis, and everybody who speaks about it, raps about it or performs about it… becomes a target.”
It isn’t always easy to do the right thing. But if rap can facilitate awareness, it will be delicious irony for the artists in the film.
With unprecedented access, ALIAS explores a side of urban Canada that few have ever seen. “I hope this film will reveal the importance of the next generation’s right to hope, dream and aspire, which is something the stereotypes propagated by the media have not been able to do,” says Latimer.
Michelle Latimer is a Metis/Algonquin writer, producer, director and actress who has focused her work on social issues, and serves as programming director for the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival. Her 2011 animated short Choke premiered and received the honourable mention for International Short Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a Genie Award.
Alias Donmillion was raised in Toronto’s Allenbury housing complex and created his own production company in 1998. He has sold thousands of units independently and produced videos that have aired on MuchMusic, MuchVibe and on Jamaica’s national music station.
Alkatraz, who was raised in Toronto’s Regent Park and Jamestown neighbourhoods, is a breakout artist whose new video, Superstar Love, is currently playing on MuchMusic. He regularly collaborates with Rich Kidd, one of the major producers coming out of Toronto today, who has worked with Drake, Kardinall Official, K-os, Saukrates and has collaborated with Busta Rhymes, Raekwon and DMX.
Rising star Trench has been making a name as a featured performer on other artists’ tracks. His video On Your Mark is featured in the film ALIAS.
In addition to this cast of extremely talented musicians, the film is punctuated by a kick-ass, hard-hitting rap soundtrack delivered by some of Toronto’s underground hip hop artists.
Directed, Written & Produced by Michelle Latimer. Produced by Nida Marji, edited by Kye Meechan. Cinematographer is Chris Romeike and film composer is Vikas Kohli. Featuring Alias Don Million, Alkatraz, Keon Love, Knia Singh and Trench. Executive in charge of production for Shaw Media is Lynne Carter and Ben Rotterman. With the participation of Canada Media Fund, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, and with the assistance of The Government of Ontario.