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Can a gang transform into a force for social good? The view from Chicago in 1970

The late US filmmaker DeWitt Beall was a prolific chronicler of Chicago during the tumultuous 1960s and early ’70s, amid the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and the rise of street gangs. His documentary Lord Thing (1970), which screened at the prestigious Venice and Cannes films festivals but was never officially released in the US, charts the emergence and evolution of the Vice Lords, one of Chicago’s oldest street gangs. Shaped by the music and sounds of the times and the voices of Vice Lords members, the kinetic film chronicles the desperate conditions that gave rise to the city’s earliest gangs, and how some Vice Lords leaders attempted to transform the group into a force for positive social change in the community. Reforming themselves as the Conservative Vice Lords, the faction created a not-for-profit that used grant money to create job-training centres, recreational areas and community-based businesses before a citywide crackdown put an end to their undertaking. Out of circulation for decades, the film was restored and released by the Chicago Film Archives in 2014.

Director: DeWitt Beall

18 June 2018

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