Get to know the culture of dirt bikes and withhold all judgment. That’s what Baltimore-native, Coco says she wants people to do when they watch 12 O’Clock Boys. The feature-length documentary, available on iTunes, centres on Coco’s son, young Pug, and his desires to join the leading ranks of his city’s dirt bike riders. As Coco and Pug get ready to take a train ride from Baltimore to New York for a film premiere, she explains, over the phone, how she feels about the final cut.
“It was 100 per cent all day long, I loved it,” she says, admitting she didn’t always like hearing her son’s occasional swear words, but was pleased to hear his honesty.
Pug provides brutally honest commentary throughout the film. Perhaps most compelling is when he says matter of factly, “Tomorrow is a day not promised. You could die any minute.” This is a reality he knows all too well, having had an older brother killed during the time of the film being made.
Baltimore’s residents are split on the issue of dirt bike riders, explains filmmaker Lotfy Nathan. And although he says when he set out to create what was originally a school project he didn’t intend on creating a documentary with a social issue undertone, it is thought that after watching the film people may have more understanding of the dirt bikers’ experience. At least that’s what Coco is hoping for.
“[Pug] just wanted to share his story, there’s a story to share, it’s real life for Baltimore, there’s no recreation centres, there’s nowhere for the kids to really go, and that’s what we put out there,” she explains.
Putting all aspects of the thrilling dirt bike experience on display, 12 O’Clock Boys showcases all sides: the fact that rival gang members ride dirt bikes together, the struggle with law enforcement and riders and the reality that people occasionally get hurt, sometimes even fatally, while partaking in this sport. Above all, the film tells a universal story of the desire to belong and be a part of something larger than you, through the eyes of a young boy who undoubtedly pulls at heartstrings from beginning to end.
“… This embracing of death and danger [at a young age], I think I learned a bit more about where that comes from,” says Nathan, “I think it’s something not to be ignored.”
Words By. Priya Ramanujam