AFI Movie Club: MENACE II SOCIETY – American Film Institute
Menace II Society Film Still - Larenz Tate and Tyrin Turne



MENACE II SOCIETY is a teen drama set in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood explores issues of systemic racial injustice and violence – and features the acting talents of AFI Conservatory alum Bill Duke (Class of 1978) and AFI Trustee Jada Pinkett Smith, who, along with her husband Will Smith, has been a key supporter of AFI through the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation.

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Watch Albert and Allen Hughes talk about MENACE II SOCIETY in this exclusive AFI Archive clip:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY marked the feature directorial debut of 20-year-old twins Allen and Albert Hughes. They had previously directed more than 30 music videos for artists including Tupac Shakur and Tone Loc.

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY begins with newsreel footage of the 1965 Watts riots in which a family was forcefully arrested in the predominantly Black community in Los Angeles. The story is told in flashback in the 1970s after the uprising took place.

DID YOU KNOW? Filming took place on location in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, with residents of the Jordan Downs apartment complex working as background actors.

DID YOU KNOW? Although the filmmakers portrayed brutality in a negative light by pairing images of bloodshed with Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Goin’ On?” on the soundtrack, MENACE II SOCIETY had to be re-edited to avoid an NC-17 rating due to its depiction of extreme violence..

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight competition.

DID YOU KNOW? MENACE II SOCIETY was completed on a budget of $2.5 million, and nearly doubled that amount in earnings during the first week of theatrical release. The film opened in 464 theaters nationwide on Memorial Day weekend in 1993.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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– In MENACE II SOCIETY, Caine believes that being booksmart does not equate to being street-smart, and for him the latter means survival. What do you think about his dilemma? What would it feel like to walk in his shoes? Is your experience in life different than the characters in the movie? 

-When MENACE II SOCIETY was released in 1993, it was part of a new wave of Black filmmakers making movies and depicting life from their own points of view. How do you think this approach differs from images we see in the news, or as told by white filmmakers?
– MENACE II SOCIETY takes place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and is cast with locals. Adding to the film’s underlying realism, the story is introduced by documentary footage of the city’s famous Watts Riots and makes use of hand-held camera techniques. What do you observe about the locations in the movie? How do they impact the story, and how do they reflect the challenges of those who inhabit them? 

-How do the filmmakers use violence in MENACE II SOCIETY? Do you think it captures the anger and frustration of the characters, or is it exploitative? 

– MENACE II SOCIETY presents Caine as an anti-hero, with great unrealized potential due to the tragedies of his life. Do you empathize with Caine? Do you think his name is a reference to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel? 

-How would you rate MENACE II SOCIETY? 

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