No Loans Today

Director: Lisanne Skyler

Institute History


“If you come in here down to your last two dollars, and you get turned away, where you gonna go now? This is the end of the line. But then you say, how did you get here? Everybody’s got a story,” says Herb Andrews, owner of ABC Loan Company, a pawnshop in South Central Los Angeles. The day-to-day life here is basic and harsh—taut with the chronic tension of just scraping by.

Still, as filmmaker Lisanne Skyler’s humane gaze studies various denizens of the area, one is struck with the basic decency and resiliency that are revealed. Her subjects include Audrey, a former drug abuser and mother of four who uses her earnings as a money lender and drug connection to pay for her kids to live out of town with their grandmother; Wanda, who is dealing with the loss of her son to gang violence; Aaron and Anthony, loosely affiliated with the local Blood gang and looking for a way to survive without selling drugs (”It’s hard to find a nice job when you have a record.”); James, who has pooled family resources to open a restaurant and considers the South Central community “a big penitentiary”; Cherry, owner of a forty-year-old café inherited from her father (“When I was growing up here, the families were working; you had the mother and the father and they had jobs.”); and Johnnie, who drew an early retirement to start his own business when denied a bank loan (“If they do loan you, it’s just enough to get you in trouble . . .”). The recent proliferation of “fringe banks” such as ABC Loan completes a cycle of economic marginalization that began after the 1965 riots and is perpetuated by redlining (where people in certain unofficial areas, geographically defined by zip codes, are denied business loans and pay higher insurance premiums).

No Loans Today, portraying the pawnshop as a symbol for survival, explores both economic and psychological marginalization—and possibly reveals more about the recent riots than all the newscast footage of that conflagration. It possesses a poignancy and a power that last long after its viewing.

— Robert Hawk

Screening Details

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