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Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story

3.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In May 1995, Shawn Nelson, a 35 year-old plumber from Clairemont, California, emerged from an eighteen foot mine shaft he had dug beneath his backyard in search for gold. An ex-soldier and methamphetamine abuser, he stole a tank from a nearby National Guard armory and went on a rampage through the residential streets of his neighborhood, crushing cars and lampposts until the cops took him down.

CUL DE SAC goes far beyond this apparently minor news story and provides extensive political, economic and social context that ties Nelson's life to the larger story of a working class community in decline.

Newsreels of a fat, happy San Diego in the 50s and 60s, the perfect representation of middle class aspirations for economic prosperity, are juxtaposed with contemporary images of shuttered defense plants, jobless blue-collar suburbanites, drug abusers, and police on patrol. Statements from police, historians and real estate agents sketch out the rise and fall of this military-fueled boomtown, and trace the area's social ills back to World War II, the Vietnam War and recent layoffs.

Review

Thoughtful, unpredictable, and gripping... an engrossing true-life story. More important, it's a brilliant cultural and political essay, packed with insights into grass-roots attitudes about violence and war. --Christian Science Monitor

[A] terse, scrupulous film, the footage punctuates a bleak tale of a defense-industry town's boom and bust-once a Cold War capital of airplane and missile production, the San Diego suburb has decayed into a strip-mall wasteland... --The Village Voice

The film's Chamber of Commerce footage and implicit indictment of American industry's insensitivity to its labor force is reminiscent of Michael Moore's ROGER AND ME... [CUL DE SAC] provides an often surprising portrait of Nelson and his community, and its most compelling element is the physical presence, testimony, and reactions of Nelson's blue-collar neighbors and acquaintances...who attribute his death to the government's oppressive attitude towards working-class people and believe that his taking that tank was the act of 'someone finally standing up to the callousness and discompassion of the city. --Journal of American Culture

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Shawn Nelson
  • Directors: Garrett Scott
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Icarus Films
  • DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011
  • Run Time: 57 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004SKIPS2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,001 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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That's what the neighbors say about this speed freak who stole a tank and went on an urban rampage in San Diego. And oh, he also was digging a gold mine in his suburban back yard, with a shaft 17 feet deep! But he was just a regular guy!
A fascinating glimpse of a lower middle class suburb in the 1990s, where everyone is descending into the gloomy depths of drugs and/or alcohol.
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This is a fascinating documentary about the world and San Diego, Calif. It takes the news story of a plumber who drove a tank on the highway and was shot by police and opens it up into a much larger exploration of post-industrial malaise in America.

The documentary shows how meth spread to San Diego via imperial wars such as Vietnam. There's also some interesting commentary by a cop there about how meth is a lower middle class drug because it appeals to the idea of self-reliance. Thus, meth emerges as a drug both imperial and Emersonian.

I found it especially interesting how we meet the tank driver, Shawn Nelson's, friends and neighbors and get to know them before we realize that they're meth users/ addicts. Especially poignant is the repeated testimony that there were lots of guys who wanted him to show them how to become plumbers too. There's a real sense of being stuck and locked in at the bottom here.

The essays are also excellent. They put the film into context. It would be a great film to use in a class discussing Mike Davis' City of Quartz or any of the books on the use of American urban space for control and surveillance.
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I witnessed the event on this DVD as it happened both on Tv and on my scanner radio. That was one hell of a scary thing to see. I remember how frantic the police were to get innocent bystanders out of the way and figure out how to stop him. No one can know for sure what was in the poor man's mind when he stole that tank but with this documentary you get a great deal of insight into his life and why he might have done it. An very well done video. It certainly was very lucky he had no ammo/shells for the big gun. If he had had some there's no telling what might have happened. As i watched this i remembered the famous "Killdozer" incident too.
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Does not take a rocket scientist to see most if not all of these characters are meth addicts. The female who is most prevent in this terrible doc is definitely " tweaking" during every conversation. Pitiful doc.....
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Unfortunately, the director, Garrett Scott, died soon after finishing this film. A freak "accident" or something more sinister. His research into the shady side of San Diego might have ruffled the wrong feathers. Read "Chameleo" to find out the rest of the story.
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A chamber of commerce documentary on the growth and death of the suburbs. Great...all I care about is the tank rampage but there is very little about that in this movie. Nice opportunity to listen to a bunch of loser meth heads though...
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