Sunday, July 03, 2005


See: The Rize Movie website

With all the hype I saw about the "Lords of Dogtown", a reality flick which is about the exploits of some young white kids which leads up to a skateboard competition, I never heard about this other reality flick/documentary, Rize. What I thought it was going to be was some "Dirty South" hype flick; the fast paced commercials were pretty unclear about the actual movie.

I wasn't sure if I would be feeling a documentary; after all, this time last year Fahrenheit 911 got me all upset. But, because of timing and the fact that I didn't want to be all in the movies for three hours watching Batman or Star Wars, I wanted to take in something quick.

Rize is about a hip hop dancing subculture in the crime ridden streets of Los Angeles. Not since the "hood flicks" (Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, Baby Boy) has there been such a focus on the "ghettos" of LA and the youths that live there. From the beginning this dance style is not tied to the "Breakin'" movies of the 80s, its bigger than that. Rather, it is something that is rooted in the Watts Riots of the 60s and the LA Uprising of '92. Out of the riots of '92 would come this new style of dance that would touch the generation, most of whom were infants in 1992.

The leader of this dance movement is a brother named Tommy the Clown. Tommy the Clown is an ex-drug dealer who decides to turn to dancing to better his life. He also hired himself out as a clown, and he mixes hip hop dance with clown routines to create a new art form. He's like the Afrika Bambatta of the LA dance movement. The dance is called Krumpin by one of the dance crews in the movie; and depending on who is doing it because different people have different styles, its a rowdy mix of breakdancing, stripdancing, cheerleader precision routines topped off with a lot of booty shaking. I think some of the booty shaking of these young kids forced two white ladies out of the theater, since they left and never came back. The practioners of the dance are 5-20, and I have to admit it was a bit unsettling seeing a 9 year old dance like a stripper. But all the dancers compete with equal intensity; and in that respect its a free for all.

As much as the movie leads up to the dance contest between two factions, the Clowns (who paint their faces, dress and work the clown theme into their dance routines)and the Krumpers (an off shot of the clowns who are a lot more militant and want to change the game), the movie delves into the streets of Los Angeles, showing how grim reality hits as hard as the dances they practice. Tommy the Clown, the brother who is well liked in the hood, finds out his house has been broken into. He bursts into tears, and you see how after a major show this just hits him so hard.Also, one of the dancers, a young 12-15 year old girl, is shot and killed by gangbangers in a case of mistaken identity.

This was a great hip hop documentary, and I would put it right up there with Wild Style and Style Wars in terms of following that tradition of showing this culture, its origins, and putting it right there where it began. I still think that the 9 year old dancing like a stripper should've been left on the cutting room floor. Even worse was the reaction of other kids to that. That aspect I could've done without. They do balance that out by showing some of the kids dancing in church, showing that despite the moral numbness of these kids at times, there is still hope for them. These kids are capable of doing great things with their talents.

Though it will probably flash through the theaters and be on DVD in a month and a half (I'll buy it!)to recoup the money that it will lose (David Chapelle took a big chance on this one!), this movie is good for those who enjoy learning about the hip hop cultures in other cities, because every city has a unique way of expressing itself. With that in mind, DC now needs something better than "Good to Go" for it's go-go scene.

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