Unreal City

One Minute With Lotfy Nathan: Director of The 12 O'Clock Boys

Gavin Mecaniques | Wednesday 26 June, 2013 14:11

Lotfy Nathan, 26, debuted his documentary feature —12 O’CLOCK BOYS—to critical acclaim at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. While showing the film at London’s Open City Docs Festival, he spoke to Snipe about Baltimore, bike gangs and embarking on his first film.

What are the 12 O’Clock Boys? The 12 O’Clock Boys are an illegal dirt bike group that converges from all parts of Baltimore. They get their name from what they strive for: A perfect vertical wheelie. 12 O’Clock. 

What attracted you to this story? The high-octane and exotic presence of the group. My interest was kept by a very gradual discovery of what the film would be. I would get some interesting shots here and there. I also realised a lot of these kids are trying to escape. 

The drama escalates as the Police are very restricted in how they can respond. Is that still the case? The police still can’t chase the bikes, although apparently now if a rider is apprehended, they can face some jail time. Previously it was just a traffic violation. A young kid can also lose his license now for years. A huge deterrent I think. 

The default reference for Baltimore is the TV series The Wire. Is that fair? I think a lot of people in the hood in Baltimore feel The Wire was fair. A bunch of people I met actually started to call Baltimore “The Wire”. I hadn’t seen it until well into filming and it was an incredible experience. I watched it very quickly. It was one of the best pieces of television and most incredibly it brought that accurate portrayal of a place like inner city Baltimore to a mainstream audience. I was in Egypt last year and spoke to some kids who loved The Wire, which was amazing. I think because it reached so many people, it served as a point of reference for this documentary. A lot of people already have a lay of the land of Baltimore now so I think there was less we had to explain. 

Did your ideas change while making the film? It went from no idea to an idea to the execution of the idea (then that idea not working and the whole thing all over again). My ideas about the story and how to present it changed throughout the course of production.

You used Kickstarter to successfully raise funds to complete the film. What were some good and bad points about that process? Kickstarter was a great help. It’s only a good thing. 

What skills do you wish you had more of when you started? I can’t say I wish I had all the skills necessary going into this. Part of why I was able to embark on it was because I had no idea what it would take to make it. Naivety at its best. After you know what skills it takes, you might be more wary knowing how hard it is. 

You were born and grew up in London and still visit here. What do you love and hate most about London? I love way that people in London always sign their text messages in london with an “x”. I hate the way the British deal with hamburgers. 

Name some of your favourite films Lawrence of Arabia, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, 400 Blows, Senna, Indiana Jones trilogy

Find out more about the The 12 O’Clock Boys. and follow Lotfy on Twitter.

Photo image copyright Gavin Mecaniques

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Gavin Mecaniques

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Gavin Mecaniques

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