AFI Movie Club: MENACE II SOCIETY

THREAT II SOCIETY is a teen drama set in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles that explores issues of systemic racial injustice and violence – and features the acting talents of AFI Conservatory alum Bill Duke (Class of 1978) and AFI Administrator Jada Pinkett Smith, who, along with her husband Will Smith, has been a key supporter of AFI through the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation.

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Watch Albert and Allen Hughes talk about MENACE II SOCIETY in this exclusive clip from AFI Archive:

Movie Trivia on TODAY’S MOVIE

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY marked the first feature film for twins Allen and Albert Hughes, 20. They had previously made over 30 music videos for artists such as Tupac Shakur and Tone Loc.

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY begins with news footage from the Watts Riots of 1965 in which a family was forcibly arrested in the predominantly black community of Los Angeles. The story is told in flashback to the 1970s after the uprising.

DID YOU KNOW? Filming took place on location in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, with residents of the Jordan Downs apartment complex working as background actors.

DID YOU KNOW? Although the filmmakers portrayed the brutality in a negative light by associating images of bloodshed with Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Goin’ On?” on the soundtrack, MENACE II SOCIETY had to be re-released to avoid an NC-17 rating due to its depiction of extreme violence.

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY was presented in preview at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the Cannes Film Festival.

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY was completed on a budget of $2.5 million and nearly doubled that amount in revenue within the first week of theatrical release. The film was released in 464 theaters nationwide over Memorial Day weekend in 1993.

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The Movie Doesn’t End in the Credits: Family Discussion Questions

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– In MENACE II SOCIETY, Caine believes that being bookmart is not the same as being street-smart, and for him the latter means survival. What do you think of his dilemma? What would it be like to walk in your shoes? Is your experience of life different from that of the characters in the film?

-When MENACE II SOCIETY was released in 1993, it was part of a new wave of black filmmakers making films and depicting life from their own perspective. How do you think this approach differs from the images we see in the news or told by white filmmakers?
– MENACE II SOCIETY is set in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and is cast with locals. Adding to the film’s underlying realism, the story is introduced with documentary footage of the city’s famous Watts Riots and uses handheld camera techniques. What do you notice about the film locations? How do they impact history and how do they reflect the challenges of those who inhabit them?

-How do the filmmakers use violence in MENACE II SOCIETY? Do you think it captures the characters’ anger and frustration, or is it exploitation?

– MENACE II SOCIETY casts Caine as an anti-hero, with great unrealized potential due to the tragedies in his life. Do you agree with Caine? Do you think his name is a reference to the biblical story of Cain and Abel?

-How would you rate MENACE II SOCIETY?

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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love cinema. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly talking points and material from the AFI Archives to enrich your viewing experience.

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