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I FELT this movie. I understood it on a cellular level. I'm Afrian American, I'm over 50, and I didn't grow up in a neighborhood like these kids. I had ballet lessons, was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, yada, yada, yada. But I FELT this movie. I understood how and why they danced the way they did. I would have liked to know how the Asian clowns/krumpers got started and if they compete in the dance-offs. The same for the white genexer who felt he belonged with the clowns/krumpers. My hope is that some of these kids will find their way into society. Not every producer/director can feel proud of his or her work. This one can.
Before you can understand "krumping" and "clowning," you've got to understand the history and people of South Central Los Angeles. Director David LaChapelle opens his documentary, Rize, with news footage and images from the 1965 Watts riots and the 1992 Rodney King riots. Out of the violence and hate came Tommy the Clown, the hip-hop clown who got kids to stop fighting and start dancing. These "clown groups" gave kids an alternative to gang life. Clown dancing grew, expanded, and evolved into an entirely new form of dance "krumping." It may look aggressive and violent, but it's pure release, expression, and art. When LaChapelle shows footage of African tribal dancing, one can't help but see the resemblance to "krump" dancing, from the quick and deliberate body movements to the face paint, as if that dancing was in their blood. Rize gives these dancers something the rest of society has long denied them dignity and respect. See this one.
Tonight I ended up unexpectedly seeing the advance screening of "Rize"
My suggestion: When this movie opens on June 24, stop everything and see it at your first opportunity. It is an eye-popping, total delight.
David LaChappel has accomplished a cinematic triumph in filming the true story of the rise of a phenomenal new dance style. The movie is not what you would typically expect. The main characters let you know right away that they have no intention of succumbing to the exploitive commercialization of hip hop with it's guns, violence and persistent misogyny. The filmmaker avoided that tired approach too.
Instead, these amazing young people have invented a way to transform their grief, anger and fears into a vibrant new art form that will make your spirit thump to the beat. They are over-comers who have decided to move beyond surviving to brilliantly thriving against the dire odds of South Central LA.
You will love this story. You will respect these people. You will rave over David LaChappel's stunning, original and immensely entertaining film.
But hey, don't take my word for it. Go and see Rize for yourself. You'll see why Rolling Stone calls this movie "a visual miracle," and why the Sundance crowd was so taken with this movie.
When I saw the "Rize" trailers at first I was afraid that this would be
yet another movie depicting the African-American experience through
slanted and distorted filters ignorance and the media would have "White
America" and the rest of the world believe. After a few minutes though
I found that I couldn't have been more wrong.
"Rize" is a wonderful piece of cinematic gold. It shows us what movies can really accomplish. It shows that what makes a movie "good" isn't a "Big budget" rehash of the same mindless drivel Hollywood has shoved down our throats for the past years. But a movie with substance.
If you have read the other reviews and summaries for this movie me telling you about the "plot" or "characters" is a waste of space. Also If you have read the other reviews you will see that quite a few people believe that "Rize" is just "You got Served" with face paint. People who have written this make me believe that they must have been watching a "spoof" on TV or watching commercials, and coming to there own conclusions.
"You got Served" is to the African-American Dance culture as "From Justin to Kelly" is to musicals. YGS was a the same type of group vs. rival group with "mild" drama of a betrayal of a former member that was depicted in "Bring it On" or "Good Burger" and countless other films for the 12-17 age demographic. It was a film mostly for fans to get a last few glimpses of the former music group B2k and leader of the former group immature (or IMX) together for the last time (sort of like "Spice World"). In this since it served its purpose well.
Knowing this you can see that it would be a "closed minded" and "ignorant" person to even link these two movies together. And my advice to those who choose to do so is: To actually see the movies you choose to harshly critique. You may even find that "One of these movies is not like the other" As one is a documentary and the other a "teen flick". Also I have noticed in reviews previous to mine that the movie "Be cool" is mentioned due to its brief "cameo-esque" snippet of the dance style. "Be Cool" was mentioned to be the first discovery of the dance style. This is simply not true, as ONE of the first showings of this dance style can be credited to Missy Elliot in her music video "I'm really Hot".
Another method of discrediting this movie is by attacking the director for just being "Christina's music video director" or a "photographer". Though I can honestly say that I am nor have ever been a fan of Christina Aguilera's work...I certainly do not hold this against Mr. La'Chappelle because unlike most respected and honored directors who turn a blind eye to movies like this because they aren't "Oscar worthy" he stepped in, and in his own artistic and beautiful way shuns the myths and stereotypes that have plagued the African-American people. (Especially young people residing in urban areas and ghettos for no fault of there own are labeled as "thugs" and "gangsta's" are now being known as "Artists" and "Visionaries" due to them turning back to their roots in Africa).
I hope more movies will come out like this and liberate all races from their own stereotypes.
Perhaps imperfect as a neatly tied-up documentary statement, the film raises real contentious questions about ethnic stereotypes, youth, sexuality, and art (kudos for that). But from a purely experiential perspective this is an intense, original, and completely ecstatic trip in both the cultural and aesthetic dimensions. Personally I see nothing compromised or shallow about mixing in a healthy dose of gratuitously beautiful, highly stylized photography for the pure raw aesthetic bliss of it. The film is also quite interesting from an anthropological angle in terms of how the documented phenomenon quickly takes root, consumes these good peoples' identities 24-7, organically grows, divides, mutates, rapidly spans generations and groups, sweeps up even infants who intuitively jack right in to the main line, and seems to strongly channel ancient ancestral rites straight into South Central, where it weaves a crazy web of hope and ecstatic optimism through the beleaguered community like beautiful wildflowers in a cracked asphalt lot. I may just have to start wearing my clown outfit to the office in tribute, but I guess I should work on my moves first. For that I suppose I'll just have to wait for the inevitable krumping class at my local gym! :p
Primus fans, admittedly not exactly the target audience for this film,
will immediately recognize the lyrics above and hopefully get a little
kick out of it. People who don't know Primus, probably most of the
people who would watch this documentary and read about it, will most
likely send me angry e-mails.
I am not the biggest fan of hip-hop, rap, r&b, etc., but I decided to check out this documentary because I recently moved to LA and I appreciate seeing people who take difficult life situations and turn them into something positive, and that is exactly what happens in this movie. All of these kids living in the so called dangerous parts of Los Angeles take their frustration and their fear and channel it into a unique style of dancing, which is often quite a spectacle to behold.
It starts with a man who calls himself Tommy the Clown, who entertains at children's parties much like most other types of clowns, except that he specializes in an amazing dance performance rather than magic tricks and balloon animals, and before long other dancing clown groups are popping up all over the place, mostly staffed by kids and teenagers who otherwise would more than likely get involved in a life of crime.
This is an amazing look into the reality of the lives that these people live, right down to individual dance parties, some of the unwritten social rules of the people who dance together (the styles change so quickly that they can tell who has missed even a single day of dancing), and tragic events that take place in their everyday lives. Even if this is not your style of music or dancing, this documentary is definitely worth a look to see how some people take something so difficult and so bad in their lives and turn it into something good. Truly inspiring.
We need movies like this. we need to allow ourselves to be touched.
So we can learn to be human beings, people need to learn to be humane to each other. Forget gender, forget color, forget beliefs, we all human underneath, we all drown, we all bleed, we all are scared, we all want to express ourselves, and we all deserve that respect.
Learn to give that to everyone you meet. You might never see them again.
I feel privileged these people shared their lives with me. We can learn so much from what the people in this documentary are sharing with us about community, and culture, and humanity.
I am sorry, but it is a SIN that this film is not getting more
recognition. It literally is one of the greatest movies about the art
of dance EVER MADE. I mean, people, this is an awesome film about the
ART of movement in its rawest most creative stage and there has never
been a film like it.
Please don't miss it.
And also don't miss the Ab soundtrack CD.
The use of music in the film is truly exceptional and not overwhelming.
The documentary style is clever (even if it is a little hazy on detail and maybe stretches a few truths).
And finally, please bring some children to see this so they can see the "other side".
Secret political message of the film: why are we spending money in IRAQ when there is so much need here?
"Rize" rises above anthropological curiosity to be an exhilarating
paean to the human spirit.
It is parallel to "Bastards of the Party" in noting how devastating gang violence, drugs and poverty have been to the social structure of African-Americans living in South Central Los Angeles and how young people desperately seek alternative families for emotional support. But debut director David LaChapelle (and a graduate and proponent of arts education programs) documents the power of artistic expression in literally saving souls and lives, here through a spontaneously indigenous, organized form of hip hop dancing.
It is "Amazing Grace" acted out before our eyes as this is self-help, bootstraps up through specifically African-American Christian culture that grew out of birthday party celebrations, going from clown dancing to crumping.
I was thinking of "A Chorus Line"'s refrain of "Everything was beautiful at the ballet" of girls escaping dysfunctional families even before these hyper-articulate entertainers point out that there are no ballet classes available to them, or any after-school activities for kids not interested in football or basketball so they made the choice to dance with organized groups, first in informal than structured competitions.
No white talking head experts are needed in this film, though it is not clear how much influence LaChapelle had over the participants' self-awareness over the three years he was making the film, as we only hear his voice a couple of times asking questions, usually of their mothers. For example, L'il C says such dancing is "in our blood" -- but is that after LaChapelle showed them the footage of African ritual dancing that they had never seen before -- and it is a bit disconcerting that of all the footage he could have selected he uses material from the Leni Riefenstahl archives. Ethnomusicologist Nick Spitzer of Public Radio's American Routes show could certainly teach them all something about the recurring phenomenon in the African diaspora of similar competitive "families" created around dancing and costumes or make-up, including the samba clubs in Brazil, the Mardi Gras "Indians" of New Orleans and the carnival crews of the Caribbean.
LaChappelle carefully introduces us to the participants as dancers and individuals before we know more about their difficult pasts and home lives, as these are young people who had to grow up too fast and are lucky to have survived, even as they can't avoid the neighborhood's random violence. We also see that these are the kind of individuals who are naturally nurturing and mentor-seeking, as one explanation of how they sought out the arts and why dance speaks to them as a mechanism to work out their emotions.
The sound track assiduously avoids degrading commercial hip hop selections for songs that reflect the spirit of the dancing, as the participants resoundingly note the independence of their culture from corporate forces.
While the story line wanders a bit after the climactic Battle Zone, LaChappelle forcefully links the the dancing to Pentecostal and Baptist gospel traditions for the life affirming conclusion. The closing shots of how it has spread outside the African-American community aren't entirely convincing.
LaChappelle can't resist some artsy music video type shots of beautiful, glistening bodies by the ocean, but that does serve to emphasize their dancing as an aesthetic form, even as the film does go on a bit too long and repetitively.
The interviews on "Charlie Rose" should be included with the DVD as there is no concluding update to learn that some of the participants are now employed professionally as dancers, though we did get a glimpse that Miss Prissy is taking some formal dance training.
Regardless, you do walk out uplifted and feelingly thrillingly positive about life.
David LaChapelle, among the most distinctly over-the-top commercial
photographers of all time, has made a career out of pushing the
boundaries of political correctness and redefining what we view as
beautiful, bold, colorful, sexual. His photography, particularly his
celebrity portraits, are rich in their frenzied energy; his work can
turn even the most untalented of stars (ahem, Paris Hilton) into
iconoclasts of the frenetic image. My favorite LaChapelle photo, that
of a nude, afroed, and positively beaming Naomi Campbell lying atop a
substantial pile of fruit, would seem trashy anywhere else but appears
giddy, boundlessly euphoric, even, when lensed by LaChapelle.
He famously left his day job as the most gifted commercial photographer in 2006, dramatically and abruptly, escaping to a secluded Hawaiian paradise in some form of an extended mid-life crisis. After a long break from doing what he thought he loved, he rediscovered himself and became an Andy Warhol post-Factory of sorts, regarding his work more seriously than ever before. So the celebrities, the magazines covers, the elbow- rubbing, came to an end in pursuit of fine art. Now, LaChapelle would much prefer to make a social statement than put Lil' Kim on a crucifix and surround her with nuns for the sake of kitsch. He has directed a number of eye-catching music videos, but 2005's "Rize", a documentary, remains to be his only film. Though much of it is filmed in the same Technicolor, purposely campy ballpark of his other work, "Rize" is a surprisingly mature doc, especially when considering it was headed by the Fellini of photography.
LaChapelle gives us an inside look into the world of krumping, a highly emotional, movement intensive form of dance descended from clowning and perfected in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King riots. Found mostly in inner-city Los Angeles, where crime runs amok and pressure to join gangs is high, krumping is, for its most active participants, a life- saver, a persona defining hobby that gives them a reason to stay off the streets and entertain the public after hours upon hours of lightning paced practice. LaChapelle divides the film into three parts, the first introducing the krumping culture through interviews, the second connecting clowning with the dance in focus, the third climaxing with a thunderous battle of movement between the two rival krumping groups.
One might expect LaChapelle to let his tremendous stylistic abilities gloss over the more spit on the ground realities of "Rize" in favor of startling imagery, but his instantaneous recognizability takes a backseat to the hugely fascinating stories of the krumpers. These are not people who simply like to dance; they were saved by the art form, revitalized by it. Before he invented, or at least, nurtured, the style of krumping, Tommy Johnson, also known as "Tommy the Clown", was a drug dealer who spent five years in prison for his crimes. After his release, he was invited to a child's birthday party in hopes of entertainment then and there, dressed as a clown, he kicked off a completely new dancing style that took much of Los Angeles by storm following the Rodney King riots. In the years following, he started a business, became a local legend, and took scads of at-risk adults under his wing.
Most inspiring is Christian "Baby Tight Eyez" Jones, who went from an atrociously tragic childhood straight into dancing success because of krumping, the very idea of following in the footsteps of his deadbeat parents sounded like nightmare fantasy. He was good at something, had fun doing that something, and, in return, became a success in his own right. Jones is only one of the many kids Johnson has supported over the years, and "Rize" takes the time to get to know them. LaChapelle finds a good balance between spectacle and human drama, as willing to highlight remarkable dancing abilities as he is ready to underline the struggles many of his subjects face. As wonderful as krumping is for most of these people, it can hardly mask the harsh truths that overtake so much of the ghetto.
"Rize" is a solid documentary that does what a documentary should; introduce you to something completely new and make you suddenly care about it as though it were always part of your life. Though I wish it was a bit longer (we become invested in the cast), this is an energetically shot, empathetically made film.
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