Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rize Up

If you are a prosperous, white, urban professional living a pleasant life in the suburbs you probably haven't asked yourself what's happening on the streets of South Central Los Angeles these days. In fact you'd probably prefer not to think about that tough, gang infested environment at all. Fortunately, I was visually yanked onto those streets while channel surfing when I discovered the best cultural documentary you could imagine called Rize.

In the midst of gang violence, drugs, and oppression you will see groups of young people searching for a higher meaning to their lives - dancing their hearts out in a spirited, aggressive, frenetic, athletic and passionate way that makes commercial hip hop look bland. Through their commitment to the dance group and each other they stay away from the pervasive drugs and violence. The "Clowns" and the "Krumps" are the colorful, energetic dance groups portrayed in the film, who paint their faces, and almost innately express their African American roots and heritage in the high paced dance routines. The film culminates in competitive dance scenes watched by a live audience at the Great Western Forum called "Battle Zone V" where the Clowns face off against the Krumps for dance supremacy. During the dance spectacle a contestant who founded the Clowns has his home broken into and trashed - a stark reminder of his neighborhood.

David Lachapelle has crafted a brilliant, gritty and timeless work that will inspire and challenge those who view it. These young adults and kids are a testament to those who can find community and creativity while in the throes of adversity.

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