License to Operate: Former Los Angeles gang members come together to save lives

License to Operate map

The documentary License to Operate introduces us to former Los Angeles gang members who were deadly enemies in their younger days but are now co-operating, through an organization called A Better LA,  to break a cycle of murder and retaliation that had lasted for decades.

One man gets out his high school yearbook and tells us that most of his former classmates are dead now. He has photos from their funerals. it’s obvious that he’s lucky to still be alive himself. Another man tells of seeing five candlelight memorials for murder victims in just one evening. That was the night that he knew he had to do something to save the next generation of children.

After receiving instruction from the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute, the men do liaison work between neighbourhoods and the police and fire departments, encouraging young people to stay out of gangs and calming tensions after murders. If something happens, even in the middle of the night, they’re out there on the street, trying to keep the situation from escalating, eliminating rumours, etc.
They certainly have their work cut out for them. A Better LA says that there are more than 450 gangs in Los Angeles, and that: “ ‘Invisible lines’ drawn by gangs to designate their turf cause children to live in a constant state of fear, wondering if walking to school or crossing the street puts them in harm’s way.”

A lawyer explains that many of the children in these neighbourhoods have the same levels of post traumatic stress disorder as children living in war zones. Before the age of 16, they have lost as many as 10 friends to murder. We see doors and walls that have been riddled with bullets. It’s truly appalling.

License To Operate, directed by James Lipetzky, 101 minutes, in English
Saturday, Oct, 3, 2015 – 7 pm
Cinéplex Odéon du Quartier Latin
350, Rue Émery, Montréal (Métro Berri UQAM)
Admission is $10.
Check the Montreal International Black Film Festival web site, for details, the film schedule, film synopses and trailers.
The Montreal International Black Film Festival has a Facebook page, too.

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