For a guy who can’t dance a step, I’m a little bit
surprised to find myself liking (or loving) this movie. Rize
is a documentary of the lives and movements of poor black people
in LA. This is the story of neighborhoods razed by race riots, corrupted
by crime and violence, and hollowed out by poverty. But some people
don’t stay down. They rize up.
Before we go any further I cannot in good conscience avoid admitting
that I am white. Very white. In many ways my whiteness made me feel
slightly uncomfortable writing this review (a total of one dancer
in the movie was white), but Rize struck deep in my heart,
as if it were made for white people to see. So go out there and
watch this movie, fellow honkies. Don’t be afraid.
Enter Tommy the Clown, a reformed drug dealer
who loves makeup and hip-hop. His love for the children and high-quality
entertainment makes him an instant celebrity in the ghetto. Complete
with the baggy jumpsuit and rainbow ’fro, Tommy dances to
hip-hop at parties for the kids. The parents and children talk about
how hanging with Tommy keeps them focused on the positive and away
from the negative. Instead of tangling with gangs or drugs, they
paint their faces and clown around with Tommy. He develops a crew
of loyal clowns (Larry, Lil Tommy, Big X, La Nina).
Then we hear about the clowning veterans (Tight Eyez, Dragon,
Baby Tight Eyez, Lil C, Miss Prissy), who have developed
their own style of dance called krumping. They dance far more aggressively,
claiming a relation to tribal dancing. They slam, fall, shove, climb,
flip, and jerk around fast enough to warrant the note at the beginning
of the movie stating that no film has been sped up. The dancing
is just as serious to them as it is to Tommy; it’s their religion
and hobby combined. Suddenly dark clouds loom overhead and there
is a serious danger of seeing a remake of You Got Served
as a dance battle breaks out, Clowns versus Krumps. Fortunately
the dance battle had a lot more dignity to it, even though it was
crew versus crew, winner take all.
As I stand in judgment on this film, I try to imagine it as a
diamond in the rough. The story didn’t have a logical sense
of order or continuity, but that’s probably because it was
ordered chronologically. This doesn’t usually make for good
storytelling. For a documentary, the camera work was fantastic.
However, sometimes LaChappelle’s history
of shooting models shone through and the dancers seemed more like
sculptures than humans (but maybe I’m just a fatty).
All in all, as someone not horribly concerned with dancing, I
found there to be just too much of it. Unless you really, really
like dancing, you’ll feel the same way, too. It added unnecessary
length, especially at the end. But I adapted because Rize
is about real life and real souls, and David LaChappelle did a damn
good job of baring those souls on film. I’m a bleeding heart
for stories about people living healthy lives in unhealthy situations.
If you can’t appreciate spiritual gold, this movie isn’t
for you. As I said earlier, this is a really important movie for
white folk to see. It’s important because it will take away
every Hollywood conception of what ghetto life is all about, and
it will show you real people living real life (unless I’ve
been deceived). You live with them throughout this movie, feeling
their happiness, their sorrow, their excitement, their anger, their
glory, and their bliss. And then you know them. And then you’re
just a little less ignorant. Every little bit counts. See this movie
with someone you’re comfortable with, because there are a
lot of emotions in this film.