There are people out there who think that we, as a whole society, spend too much time looking at glowing, electronic screens. Be them a TV, computer, or smartphone this line of thought believes that humans are missing out on true connections due to this invisible wall of signals and circuits. However, what if that isn’t the case at all? What if people are spending time on these devices in order to find others who similarly see the world? What if some intelligent, creative types saw this trend and used the very social media platforms that keep folks checking their phones every few minutes to organize a massive meetup?
Wonder no more, as Owen Korb’s documentary Pull Up LA turns the camera towards a group of artistic professionals and enthusiasts as they gather in Los Angeles for an art festival/ social gathering. These meetups see photographers, models, make-up specialists, fire wielders, filmmakers, and just about every other creative type you can imagine congregating on a predetermined location to take pictures, have photos taken of them, film, create art and express themselves in a way that would be frowned upon in their everyday lives.
Korb interviews several of the most well-known personalities of this Los Angeles subculture who discuss how they got involved with the scene, what the meetups have given them in return, and a select few of their favorite artists from these events. Yancy Alatorre wears monsters masks with stitches, blood, and the like. When pictures are being taken of him, he’ll strike a pose as if he is that creature. Butch Locsin wears a skull mask and matching colored suit as he prances about the streets with his multicolored smoke.
“…the camera towards a group of artistic professionals and enthusiasts as they gather in Los Angeles for an art festival/ social gathering.”
Along with the fire breathers, the fire spinners, and the flashing lights from hundreds of cameras going off all the time these artistic ventures may sound a bit more like a riot than an arts festival. A few people who have since become a staple of the meetup culture thought that was precisely what these were the first time they came to one. On the last night of the old 6th Street Bridge being up and running, there was a gathering on it to celebrate the end of an era. The throngs of people were blocking traffic and climbing the steel beams. Things got so crazy that the police were dispatched, so these meetups are not without an element of danger.
On the flipside, there are people like Karen Corona who does make-up designs and her eldest daughter Trinity is one of her models for these meetups. Then the stories of how being a member of a society that does not judge you if you want to wear a werewolf mask 24/7 or if you want to paint your face in multicolored spirals every day have helped high schoolers become more confident in themselves. Thus, the good these gatherings do by bringing families closer and giving a support system to those in need seem to far outweigh the few negatives.
As a film, Pull Up LA is mostly very engaging, in part thanks to the remarkable cinematography which captures the electric, exciting atmosphere of these events in a very genuine, captivating way. As Laurin Alvarez or Hector Landeros, or anyone else, is being interviewed their artwork, whatever form it takes, appears on screen, and these are some really impressive, different, and just plain cool pieces to take in.
“…these artistic ventures may sound a bit more like a riot than an arts festival.”
However, the documentary does come to feel a bit samey as it goes on. The interviews are fascinating, but there is a formula to how Owen Korb intercuts them with the footage from this or that meetup. This means there is a decent amount of repetition, so after about approximately an hour, the film starts wearing thin. What seems to be missing is a broader scope, to highlight how these gatherings have galvanized and impacted their communities as a whole.
Aside from stronger artistic visibility, what have the connections formed here done to clean up, or improve the neighbors they live in? This might seem like an odd thing to complain about in an underground art documentary but a sense of community and the various boroughs of Los Angeles, play a central role to these celebrations. Exploring that angle a bit more would have opened Pull Up LA to really showcase the necessity of the arts in everyday life.
Despite the fact that that the movie focuses on a smaller scope than the material deserves, Pull Up LA is still an entertaining, engrossing documentary that highlights a vibrant artistic community. I knew nothing of these gatherings before watching the movie, and now I am hoping that next time I am in LA, I can go to one.
Pull Up LA (2019) Directed by Owen Korb. Starring Hector Landeros, Yancy Alatorre, Laurin Alvarez, Karen Corona, Trinity Corona, Butch Locsin, Richie The Barber, Samantha Gomez.
9 out of 10 Gummi Bears