Director: David LaChapelle
Cast: Tommy the Clown
Review: A warning appearing at the beginning of the documentary, Rize, states that in no way has the dancing been digitally sped up. A couple minutes later, you realize why the warning exists. After an introduction of black-and-white shots of the 1965 Watts riots and full-color shots of the Rodney King-spurred 1992 Los Angeles riots, the dancing that fills the movie screen leaves you blinking in surprise, and realizing just why that warning appeared at the beginning.
These dancers are fast.
Rize traces the formation of a dance phenomenon in Southern California, where gangs, drugs and violence are everyday life. Started by ï¿½Tommy the Clown,ï¿½ a former drug dealer whose life was turned around while he spent time in jail, the new style of dancing called ï¿½Clowningï¿½ became his response to the L.A. riots. Fast forward 11 years later, and ï¿½clowningï¿½ has grown to include more than 50 rival groups of dancers, who spend their time honing their skills instead of gangbanging and doing drugs.
The film cuts between shots of two groups, The Clowns and The Krumps, dancing and personal interviews with the dancers themselves. The dancing is amazing, as the warning foreshadows. The style seems to be a combination of hip-hop, African tribal, liquid, and something that is entirely its own. The interviews with the straight-forward dancers provide honest insight into life in the South Central and its surrounding areas.
Despite the personable interviews and the amazing dancing, Rize unfortunately loses some of its ability to be powerful because of certain shots frequenting the film. These overproduced shots seem to put the dancers back into the MTV hip-hop genre, something it could so easily avoid, thus losing some of its credibility/sympathy. In these shots, a dried concrete riverbed serves as the backdrop for the glistening oiled bodies of the dancers whose ripped abdomens and gleaming muscles are the obvious focal point of the cameras. Itï¿½s almost as if the documentary struggles between being a gritty real-life documentary and bowing to the commercialism demands of todayï¿½s youth culture.
Still, the film is quite encouraging as it spotlights the real-life issues these kids face each day and what they choose to do with them. Although the film could have easily been a sappy, run-of-the-mill, after-school special, itï¿½s notï¿½yet it doesnï¿½t quite impact the way it really could have if it had omitted those flashy shots.