Famed hip-hop photographer Ernie Paniccioli is expanding the audience for his award-winning documentary, The Other Side of Hip-Hop: The Sixth Element, by putting it online.
The feature, which captured honors for Best Documentary at the 2007 Tribeca Big Apple Film Festival in New York City, chronicles the picture taker/author’s life in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, his service in Vietnam and conversations with students at area schools as well as his ability to capture the beginnings, essence and evolution of Hip-Hop culture behind the lens over the years. Among those appearing in the film are hip-hop co-founder Africa Bambaataa, Public Enemy front man Chuck D, pioneering female rappers Salt n Pepa and MC Lyte and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.
According to Paniccioli, the Internet is the perfect tool in bringing message of The Other Side to those familiar and unfamiliar with hip-hop.
“I believe that it was an opportunity to reach a wider audience. You have to understand with the internet, you can have a universal audience. You can have an audience that goes around the planet 24 hours day, seven days a week. And we felt that that was the move we wanted to make,” the photographer told AllHipHop.com. “You can only reach so many people through live appearances and so on and so forth. But when you put something on the internet, you can reach the whole universe. You can reach other planets, for God’s sake. That was our mindset. We wanted to reach the maximum possible audience because anything else would be disrespectful to the art.”
The online availability of The Other Side of Hip-Hop is one of many accomplishments for Paniccioli. The photographer, who self-published eight books last year, is noted for his page-turner, Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography.
The motivation for creating The Other Side of Hip-Hop stemmed from a desire for what Paniccioli called the “decriminalization of hip-hop.”
“And that is meant so when people mention the movie or mention Hip-Hop they think of it as a tool, an antidote to the criminality that’s often erroneously associated with hip-hop,” he explained. “Too many people and too many newspaper people and too many teachers and scholars look atHip-Hop and automatically think of criminals. I look at it and see poetry. I see dance. I see rhythm. I see a lot of things and that’s what we need to convey to the general audience. And that’s why we call it The Other Side of Hip-Hop, the artistic, creative, powerful, inspirational part of hip-hop.
“I wanted to show people that at the end of the day you could still be a positive, powerful person on your own terms and that you can find magic inside each of us,” continued Paniccioli. “Each of us has some God in us. And each of us has some spark in us. And that’s what I wanted the movie to be. It wasn’t about me. It was about my experiences, my travels and the birth of Hip-Hop.”
Since the release of The Other Side of Hip Hop, Paniccioli has showcased the feature in 60-,70- and 90- minute versions at various film festivals and fundraisers as well as colleges and universities such as Harvard. Last year, the feature, was made an official selection in the San Diego Black Film Festival. Reaction among filmgoers has been met with emotion, as Paniccioli recalled seeing tears in the eyes of viewers who were among those giving the film a standing ovation.
“It’s a powerful movie, but it’s also a hip movie,” admitted Paniccioli, who strives to educate people on how Hip-Hop is a collective art form. “…Every drop of reaction has been positive because it sheds a light not only on where hip hop has been but where it has the potential to go.”
With the culture’s potential to be used as “a tool to educate, to uplift and more important, to liberate,” Paniccioli is adamant about his film’s efforts to show the span of Hip-Hop and all its elements while emphasizing how the film stresses how rap music is only “a fifth” of the culture as a whole.
“You gotta understand, in inner cities, in the hood, there’s not a lot of ways out. There’s not a lot of things that can draw you to diggin’ into history and books and so on and so forth because that’s considered not cool,” he said. “Hip-hop is that thing that can make you get into the books and make you get try to get an education. Whether it’s in music or art or literature, whatever. Hip-hop is a powerful thing and we cannot underestimate it…what we’re trying to show is the transformative power that it has.”
Despite the exposure and honors The Other Side of Hip-Hop has received, Paniccioli’s involvement with the film go beyond taking home a trophy.
“We didn’t do that to win awards. We made the movie to change people’s minds and hearts about Hip-Hop ,” the photographer said as he took full advantage of the chance to personally participate in the creation of The Other Side of Hip-Hop. “And we made the movie to decriminalize hip-hop. We made the movie to share my views of art as a transformative thing and to give some insight in to what it takes to be a creative person.”
“Hip-Hop is an art form. We should use it as an art form. We should use it as fun, “Paniccioli added. “We should use it as a way to globally unite people past language, past religion and past race and culture. That’s the positive side of Hip-Hop. And it has the potential.”
Ernie Paniccioli’s The Other Side of Hip-Hop: The Sixth Element can currently be seen and or digitally downloaded at www.ourgangitvnet.com andwww.hiphopotherside.com.