Arts & Culture

Columbia filmmaker takes audiences into world of gangs with 'Colors: Bangin' in South Carolina'

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At 17, Columbia native Terrence Davis became the leader of a gang. Before his next birthday, he was stabbed in the eye by a rival gang and charged with strong arm robbery. At 18, he saw three of his friends get shot in front of him.

"For a while my life was really scary," Davis said.

Today, Davis's life is far removed from his dark past. He graduated from the University of South Carolina-Aiken in 2010 and then attended film school in New York. When he returned home, he established his own vocational film school called the South Carolina Film Institute.

"Now I have a house and a business and you would never know I used to be in a gang by looking at me," Davis said. But for his latest film project, Davis decided to show people exactly what his gang-related world was like.

His film, "Colors: Bangin' in South Carolina," which is premiering at the Manhattan Film Festival on July 1, details the history of gang feuds in Columbia and uses video footage Davis collected while he was a gang member.

The film details Davis' personal foray into gang life, which he said began as a group of friends who banded together to defend their middle-class neighborhood. He touches on the complicated rituals and hierarchies of gang culture, as well as the many subgroups, or "sets" that existed in Columbia.

"I wanted to share my story of being a gang member that didn't grow up in poverty but was still enthralled into gang life at the highest level. Gang violence has no ethnic or class divide; anyone can be swept up into the blackhole of gang life," Davis said.

The decision didn't come without risks. Davis said he has received threats from people reacting to the film, but he doesn't let it bother him.

"I knew that this was the path that I was on," he said. "Something told me I had to make it. I really, really want to make it."

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