Down for Life is a 2010 feature film directed by Alan Jacobs. The film follows Rascal, a Latina high school student enmeshed in Los Angeles gang life. The central conflict in the story concerns Rascal’s future. As a gifted writer, Rascal has opportunities to leave Los Angeles but her neighborhood friends are pressuring her to stay. In the trailer, we see clips of Rascal in fights, being pursued by police, being chastised by her teachers not to squander her opportunities, and being threatened by fellow gang members not to leave. The connection to earlier films about young people of color struggling through poverty are made clear by titles that read, “A cross between Precious…and Boyz in the Hood.” Rascal and her friends use the phrase “down for life” in multiple different contexts throughout the trailer: to affirm their friendships, the commitment to the gang, their lives in the neighborhood, and an inflexible set of values.
Have you seen the other films that Down for Life refers to (Precious, Boyz in the Hood)? How is Down for Life similar or different from these films?
In what ways does Down for Life depict the gangsterism in Rascal’s life? Does it condemn the gang life? Does it romanticize it? Is it possible for a film to offer multiple contradictory interpretations or views?
Rascal’s English teacher describes her as “special” when he advocates for her acceptance to the writing program in Iowa. What makes Rascal special? Is she more special than other young women and men in her gang? Does she think of herself as special? How does the film deal with “specialness” as an idea?
Rascal, her mother, and her friends are primarily Latina. Does race play an important part of the film’s narrative? How does Rascal talk about her race and the race of other characters? Is there diversity within the various races represented in Down for Life?