Wednesday, January 04, 2006

RIZE - Spinal Tap meets Mad Hot Ballroom

RIZE is a documentary made by famous US photo-journalist Dave LaChapelle. It tells the story of the rise of a new form of dancing called "Krump" in the worst parts of Los Angeles - and the ability of this form of dancing to give oppressed black kids some self-respect and an aim in life. It is well shot, has lots of energy, and my only slight criticism is that the balance is too much toward showcasing the hot dance moves and too little towards analysis and substance. After all, when four year old girls start doing "str*pper dance" we might want a little social context! Still, RIZE is worth checking out - it's a lot of fun, the music is fantastic and it has its fair share of laugh out loud moments.

However, the weirdest thing about this documentary - and what took me by surprise - is that this dance craze was originated by a man called Tommy the Clown, who, no kidding, wanders around the 'hood in a clown suit, multi-coloured afro wig and full face paint. On the one hand, we see that this is not a safe place to live: little kids get gunned down going to the store. On the other hand, we have to believe that no one slaps the bejesus out of Tommy for wearing a clown suit! (I grew up in rural, Tory England which is about as far removed from Compton as you get, but a guy walking down the street in a clown suit would get slapped silly there.) The completely bizarre nature of the craze had me wondering whether this doc was really a gigantic hoax. I just read the Ebert review and he wonders the same thing. If it is, then it is superbly done, and if it isn't then it is tremdendously heart-warming. Either way, go check it out, and if you need a second opinion, check out my mate Nik's review.

RIZE was premiered at Sundance and shown at Cannes. It is already on release in the US, Germany, France and the UK. It goes on release in Austria on the 27th January 2006.

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