Time Out says
Thu Oct 20 2005‘The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way’, the opening caption runs – like Bruce Lee (whose moves required a similar disclaimer), these cats are fast as lightning. The film debut of fashion snapper David Lachapelle, ‘Rize’ is a documentary on krumping, the South Central LA-based post-hip hop dance craze credited with offering thousands of kids an alternative to gang life. Founded in explosively energetic moves and played out in mock-combative tournaments, its superficially aggressive form by the end emerges as a remarkably expressive outlet for the frustrations of the ghetto.
Lachapelle’s still photography is conspicuous for both heightened glamour and strong storytelling, neither of which is to the fore here. Instead he adopts a plain style to showcase an extraordinary phenomenon, and privileges record and testimony over the winner-takes-all challenge narratives endemic to contemporary US documentary features. Perhaps the most prominent individual is Tommy the Clown, a convicted dealer turned children’s entertainer who first promoted ‘clown dancing’ as a source of self-empowerment in 1992, and whose carnival-style make-up inspired the movement’s distinctive range of face-painting. (Striking – if uncontextualised – archive footage links krump’s decorations and moves with ceremonial dancing in tribal Africa.)
The undoubted stars here, however, are the dozen-odd kids Lachapelle observes (Miss Prissy, Baby Tight Eyez et al). The smart, ambitious and compassionate characters who emerge in interview contrast as greatly with the same kids’ fiery moves as they do with conventional stereotypes of ghetto-dwellers. Like Claire Denis’ ‘Beau Travail’ (or Ekachai Uekrongtham’s recent ‘Beautiful Boxer’), ‘Rize’ teases out fascinating connections between dance and fight, grace and violence, as intertwined forms of self-aggrandising display. The power of krumpness is clear.