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Making The Film

Style Wars

Film by Henry Chalfant, Tony Silver
Produced by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant
Cinematographer: Burleigh Wartes, James Szalapski & Jeffrey Wayman (additional cinematography)
Sound: Richard Patterson, Larry Scharf
Editing: Sam Pollard, Mary Alfieri (co-editor)
Copyright: 1983, Public Art Films, Inc.
01 hours, 09 minutes, Color
Original format: Film: 16mm, 1983
Distributor: Public Art Films
More Film Facts
Home streaming only. For other permissions apply to Henry Chalfant, Tony Silver or to the distributor, Public Art Films.


Preview one minute trailer - Comment on film


Style Wars chronicles an extraordinary epoch of youthful creativity and civic controversy. Teenage graffiti artists made New York City's ramshackle subway system their public playground, battleground, and spectacular artist canvas. Opposing them were Mayor Ed Koch, the police, and the Transit Authority. As MC's and DJs rocked the city with new sounds, street corner B-boy breakdance battles became performance art. The phrase "New York 1982"(the superimposed title that starts the film) has itself become a code for a legendary time of heroic teenage exploits, a touchstone for successive generations of youth worldwide, many of whom can recite the film's dialogue by heart.

A DVD of this remarkable film can be ordered from stylewars.com. Public Art Films is currently on a fund-raising mission to restore the original print, and to create a new high definition master which will preserve the record of the first painted trains to its original vivid colors.

"One of the greatest documentaries ever made" Alexander Alland, Professor of Anthropology Columbia University "Practically every question addressed by scholars in the arts - folk, popular and high style - is raised at some point in this film and discussed in considerable detail" Nora Groce, American Anthropologist "A breakthrough documentary" A.O. Scott The New York Times "Groundbreaking and nearly perfect. It's the kids themselves who speak most eloquently to their work" Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
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