Bushwick’s street art gets a lot of love, but the attention doesn’t run deep. Gouch is a beautiful documentary short by local director and graffiti enthusiast, Raul Buitrago. It’s a rigorous, poignant exploration of the work of one of the virtuosos of the genre. The eponymous project details how Gouch started graffitiing as a young boy by watching his brother, and what it was like becoming a father while still maintaining his identity as a graffiti artist.
The movie opens with a voiceover. “Everyone,” Gouch says, “wants to leave behind a legacy, to be remembered. Graff is the ultimate tool to being remembered in this lifetime.” He goes on to talk about his experience and how he learned his craft. “My brother said, ‘study everything you see. When you come home… practice for an hour minimum every night.’”
Buitrago captures Gouch in action – spraying, riding the train, lettering – all while maintaining his anonymity.
Gouch talks about the addiction of graffiti. The art form took over his every waking moment for a time. He sacrificed school and work to bomb, as he calls it. Then the viewer is introduced to his daughter, and sees her dad’s struggle to get her to understand what it is he does…
We had the chance to talk with Buitrago about the film.
What inspired you to make this movie?
RB: I’ve had a deep love, respect, and fascination with graffiti since junior high. I couldn’t (and still can’t) keep my eyes off the wall. Being a young skate rat growing up in Queens, it was kind of inevitable that you get exposed to graffiti one way or another.
With this project I really felt motivated to elevate Gouch’s story, not just as a graffiti writer, but as a person living in this city, as a father, and as an artist.
It would have been easy to only film him bombing and talking about waking up and all that. But to make him human, a relatable figure with obstacles similar to the ones we all face, that was a huge motivator. It was also important for me to make something impactful for the graff community as a whole.
How did you meet Gouch?
RB: In mid-2014 I got my first iPhone and jumped on the IG bandwagon. I immediately started following all my favorite graff writers and graff feeds. I knew I wanted to make a step forward with filmmaking by making some kind of documentary. Gouch was one of the few guys that had his contact info in his IG bio. So I reached out to him about doing a film project. He responded enthusiastically. The initial idea was to make a 2 – 3 minute video, but over time it grew organically into what it is today.
Were you anxious about filming shots of him actually graffitiing?
RB: Anxious? Far from it. I was purely focused on getting the footage. I needed to build his story. It was very exhilarating and, as a fan, amazing to see him in action.
A lot of the film was shot around the McKibbin Lofts. Where else did you shoot, and what was the hardest to get?
We shot a lot in Flatbush as well. The footage was easy to shoot— If anything, we had a bigger challenge coordinating our schedules.
What moments aren’t in the film that you wish would have fit?
We had some footage of his family’s weekday morning routine. It ended up getting cut because it was a bit too revealing.
What’s next for you?
RB: Currently in pre-production for a short documentary in New Orleans. We start shooting in late July. Mental preparation for the sticky heat has already begun.
Check out the film in full below!
Cover: Photo courtesy of Alonzo Maciel