Max Good and Nate Wollman took many risks while making VIGILANTE VIGILANTE: THE BATTLE FOR EXPRESSION, not the least of which was tracking and then approaching Berkeley, CA’s Silver Buff. A mysterious character who blots out graffiti, “buffing”, with a can of silver spray paint, he was an unknown quantity, but no film about graffiti artists and buffers. The pair see the issue as an unexplored frontier of free speech, and in pursuit of freely speaking themselves, they found themselves in interesting situations for which no film school could have prepared them, and about which they speak with a mixture of wonder and relief (that’s it’s over). They finish up with a pointed discussion about their views on art and politics as a symbiosis.
The film is a hands-on documentary about what drives graffiti artists to ply their art despite laws and popular opinion that are meant to discourage them, and the self-appointed buffers, those who go out to cover the graffiti despite laws and popular opinion that are meant to discourage them. More than just the personal stories of three of the most famous, or infamous, buffers, the film puts the meaning of graffiti in a cultural context, as well as putting the filmmakers themselves on the front lines of the battle.