The film "Killingsworth," produced by filmmaker Tom Olsen Jr., chronicles the life and untimely demise of 20-year-old Anthony “lil’ smurf” Branch Jr., a member of the Crips gang in North Portland in the mid- to late-1990s.

Incarcerated 44 times in his 20 years, Branch was also known as a loving sibling, as well as someone who excelled in school. The film chronicles his double life from the perspectives of people who knew and loved him, as well as from the police who chased him.

Olsen said he began working on the film in April 2001 when Branch’s mother was still incarcerated at the women’s prison in Salem. Mixing interviews and news footage from the period, Olsen said the film highlights a time in North Portland that he describes as a “perfect storm” for gang violence.

With population density at peak levels, along with the influx of gangs and hard drugs, the area where Branch lived was experiencing almost daily shootings. And Branch was a poster child for someone who was both attracted to and excelled in gangs, said Olsen.

Despite his criminal history, Olsen said he found his subject to be sympathetic, as did many former friends — a view that often clashes with news reports at the time of his gang activity.

Olsen, a social worker, said he is using the film as a cautionary tale to reach out to troubled youth. By using the film in jails, juvenile homes and gang outreach programs, he hopes to turn at least some youths off to the sometimes enticing world of the gang lifestyle.

—Brian Stimson of The Skanner ○ Published: 08 November 2006

Anthony Branch Jr.
Anthony Branch Jr.